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Nevada women beat Utah Valley State

THOMAS RANSON
Appeal News Service

RENO – Nevada women’s basketball coach Kim Gervasoni finally has something to be happy about.

Nevada ended a four-game losing streaking by knocking off non-league Utah Valley State, 74-59, before 556 fans at Lawlor Events Center Thursday night.

“I always feel better after a win,” Gervasoni said. “We need to build on it. We need to win two in a row.”

The Pack improved to 4-12 overall on the season and resumes play in the Western Athletic Conference Saturday when Utah State comes to Reno for a 2 p.m. match-up.

Dellena Criner and Sabrina Keys each powered Nevada with 14 points, and Brandi Fitzgerald added 13.

As a team, Nevada shot 41.7 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the free throw line.

Keys said the team worked on being more aggressive during practice and it helped with Thursday’s game.

“We played more aggressive. We came out rebounding real hard,” Keys said. Nevada outrebounded Utah Valley State, 42-38.

Keys said Gervasoni wanted her to attack more inside the paint.

“Coach was telling me to post up hard,” said the 6-foot-2 Keys. “I just worked on the post moves from practice.”

Gervasoni was pleased with her entire team’s effort and hopes it carries over Saturday.

“This team’s a really aggressive team,” the fourth-year coach said. “The team needs to be ready and enjoy this for tonight and prepare for Utah State tomorrow (Friday).

“This is a good team. We need to come out and play aggressive.”

Utah Valley State defeated Fresno State and Gonzaga earlier in the season, which grabbed Gervasoni’s attention.

“This program needs to go past the part of competing. We should be in these games and have a chance to win these games,” Gervasoni said.

Traci Graham and Criner anchored the defense, which forced 25 Wolverine turnovers, 13 of which came on steals. Graham finished with five steals.

With Meghan McGuire out indefinitely with an ankle injury, Gervasoni shifted the starting line-up and used Keys as a reserve player.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Keys said about the coaching move. “It’s all about being consistent … I’ve been up and down.”

After leading at halftime 38-28, the Wolverines cut Nevada’s lead to four points with 15:37 left in the game.

Salaia Salave’a’s hard effort in grabbing rebounds and loose balls helped spark Nevada to regain its 10-point lead at 53-43 with 11:27 in the game. Salave’a also played four years of volleyball for the Pack.

Gervasoni felt Salave’a’s athleticism ignited the Pack to eventually put the game away.

“I had a heart to heart with Salaia,” Gervasoni said. “When she came in, it sparked a run for us.”

Nevada took advantage of Utah Valley State’s foul trouble with their season-leading scorer playing with four fouls.

Sandy Marvin led the Wolverines with 13 points, including 7-of-11 from the free throw line.

Robyn Fairbanks, who averages 17.4 points per game, was held to six points. Miriam Palkki also had four fouls and managed nine points.

“Obviously that was huge,” Gervasoni said about the foul trouble. “We got to the line well and finished well.”

Both teams finished the game with 21 fouls.