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Nevada women beat San Jose State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Nevada women’s basketball coach Kim Gervasoni summed it up perfectly.

“It does feel like a monkey was lifted off our back,” Gervasoni said. “We were 0-6 going into the game tonight (against San Jose), but we didn’t focus on that. We focused on what we needed to do to win the game.”

That would be defense.

Nevada, seeded fifth, went on a game-ending 17-2 run in the final 5 1/2 minutes to upend the No. 4 Spartans 76-61 in a Western Athletic Conference quarterfinal game Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center.

The win sends the Pack into the semifinals Friday at 2:30 p.m. against No. 1 Louisiana Tech.

“I’m really proud of our team’s defensive effort,” said Gervasoni, whose team improved to 13-16. “We made it hard for them to earn points. It was a good team effort. We made adjustments from last week. We played a lot stronger. We played physical.”

Gervasoni said she wanted to get certain matchups on Amber Jackson (23 points) and Lamisha Augustine (17 points), the Spartans’ best offensive players. The SJSU duo got some good looks, but they also failed to drop in some shots from close range, and neither got the ball down the stretch when the game was on the line.

You won’t get any arguments about Nevada’s play from SJSU coach Janice Richard, whose team finished 13-15.

“We knew it would be a defensive game coming in,” Richard said. “We tried to get at them early to remind them how we beat them twice previously, but they dictated the tempo all night. Tonight they were the aggressors. They were on a mission.”

And, it was accomplished thanks to Nevada’s play over the final 5-plus minutes.

San Jose, which trailed by 12 points four times throughout the game, had fought back to a 59-all tie thanks to Amber Jackson, who scored six of her game-high 23 in a 90-second span.

It seemed the Spartans were on the verge of stealing one from the Pack in front of a partisan crowd.

After a Nevada timeout, Jessica Preslar drove the lane and scored to give Nevada a 61-59 lead.

Preslar, who finished with 18 points, did a tremendous job getting to the rim throughout the game.

“They forced us to shoot outside shots,” Preslar said. “I wanted to get in there (inside) and get a shot away. If I didn’t make it, I wanted to draw a foul.”

And, the free throw line played a big role in the game. Nevada went 30-for-33 and San Jose went 13-for-22. The Spartans had two more field goals than Nevada.

After a San Jose miss, Preslar was fouled, and she knocked down both shots for a 63-59 lead with 4:59 remaining. Alisha Hicks misfired on the next possession, and Brittany Imaku fouled freshman Dellena Criner, who calmly dropped in both shots for a 65-59 lead. Brandi Fitzgerald banked home a short jump shot, extending the lead to 67-59.

Anetero Uiagalelei stopped the bleeding with a bucket from the baseline, but Nevada responded with the final eight points, four on back-to-back buckets by Cherlanda Franklin (10 points) that bumped the lead to 71-61.

Franklin and Fitzgerald played big roles in the second half, scoring eight and nine points, respectively. Fitzgerald picked up two quick fouls, limiting her to just three minutes in the first half.

“We had a lot of turnovers to end the game,” Richard said. “We allowed a lot of dribble penetration and layups. They were really aggressive. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t stop the run.

“We were in great position (at 59-all). They fought their way back. If we’d gotten the lead we would have been in good shape. We were unable to take the lead.”

San Jose dug itself an early hole. Nevada picked up the Spartans 30 feet away from the basket, and they didn’t respond to the pressure.

San Jose went scoreless for nearly seven minutes and only scored one bucket in a 10-minute span, enabling the Pack to grab an 18-6 lead. Criner, who finished with 18 in her first-ever tournament game, had seven in that stretch.

“She just gets it done at both ends,” Gervasoni said. “I have so much confidence in her. I forget that she’s a freshman. She’s like a coach on the floor. She gets defensive stops, gets rebounds and gets to the free throw line. It’s exciting to watch. I love Dellena.”

Eight points by Augustine in the last 1:53 enabled San Jose State to cut the deficit to 35-27 at the half.

Nevada went without a field goal for nearly four minutes to start the second half, and that drought allowed San Jose to get back into the game, and Nevada couldn’t shake SJSU.

“We got in the hole by not playing defense,” Augustine said. “To get back into the game, we had to play defense.”

In the end, however, the Spartans couldn’t put together any stops. It was like they had scaled most of the mountain to get to a tie game, but lacked the energy to get themselves over the top.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

Today’s Men’s schedule

Noon – No. 3 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 6 Boise State

2:30 p.m. – No. 2 Utah State vs. No. 7 San Jose State

6 p.m. – No. 1 Nevada vs. No. 8 Idaho

8:30 p.m. – No. 4 Hawai’i vs. No. 5 New Mexico State