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Nevada women beat Boise State

THOMAS RANSON
Appeal News Service

RENO – Everything is starting to come together for the Nevada women’s basketball team.

Behind Brandi Fitzgerald’s 23-point performance, the Pack won their third straight game by beating Boise State, 73-67, Thursday night before 405 fans at Lawlor Events Center.

“It’s so nice to play well, play together and get the W,” said point guard Traci Graham, who finished with 13 points including two 3-pointers.

Nevada, which lost to Boise State 58-50 two weeks ago, improves to 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference, 6-12 overall, while the Broncos drop to 3-4 (11-8).

Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni said the game was the best her team played during the season.

“This is the first game we’ve shown resiliency and character throughout the game,” Gervasoni said.

Gervasoni likes how the team is playing going into its game against Hawai’i in Honolulu on Saturday.

“I know they’re going to be extra motivated going to Hawai’i,” Gervasoni said. “They care about each other and want to keep it going. We just got to be ready. We got to play our game.”

Nevada is flying out this morning, and Gervasoni said the team needs to be ready mentally for the Rainbow Wahine, which beat the Pack 79-74 earlier this month.

“It’s just how you look at it. It’s all mental,” Gervasoni said. “They’re going to get a good night’s sleep. I’m giving them some free time tomorrow night. They’re going to do some shopping. That’s fine and they deserve it.”

Nevada shot 42 percent from the field, including 44 percent from 3-point land. The Pack buried eight 3-pointers with Fitzgerald leading the team with three.

“I think it’s a blessing,” Fitzgerald said about the win . “We’ve been praying and practicing real hard. The hard work is starting to pay off.”

The Pack defense stepped up in the second half, holding the Broncos to 37 percent from the field.

Both Graham and Fitzgerald said the team worked on defense during practice this week.

“We worked on it all week,” Graham said. “We’re starting to realize we have each other’s backs.”

At the beginning of the game, Boise State jumped out to an 8-0 lead and hovered around a 10-point lead for most of the half.

Nevada, though, battled back with nine unanswered points to only trail 31-30 at halftime.

“I think they’re learning not to get down and panic,” Gervasoni said. “That’s what I told them at the timeout.”

Gervasoni said Jessica Preslar, who finished with 13 points, helped the team in the second half.

“She came up huge for us,” Gervasoni said. “She set the tempo. She hit some big shots for us.”

Preslar’s difficult jump shot gave Nevada its first lead of the game 11 seconds into the second half. She also converted on Graham’s missed 3-pointer to give Nevada a 43-42 lead with 13:52 left in the game.

Two minutes later, the junior forward spun in the key to add to the Broncos’ misery. Preslar’s bucket gave the Pack a 50-45 lead with 11:19 left.

Nevada trailed later in the half, 61-57, after Jackie Lee buried two free throws at the 6:46 mark.

Lee led Boise State with 19 points, Jessica Thomspon scored 17, and Benita Buggs added 14.

Fitzgerald hit two 3-pointers in a row to help Nevada retake the lead at 65-64, and Preslar sealed the game with a swished jumper followed by two free throws with two minutes left.

Meghan McGuire, who sprained her ankle two weeks ago, looks to return either against Hawai’i or sometime next week.

“Meghan could have played a little (tonight),” Gervasoni said. “She hasn’t practiced at all.”

Sabrina Keys, however, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL she suffered against Utah State last Saturday.

“She’s still a huge part of the team,” Gervasoni said of Keys. “That’s the reality of it.”