Nevada women fall to Hawai’i |

Nevada women fall to Hawai’i

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Hawai’i had a significant size edge over Nevada and took advantage of it.

The Rainbow Wahine outrebounded Nevada 41-28 and held the Pack women to just two field goals in the final three minutes en route to a 79-74 win in the WAC opener for both teams Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada (3-9, 0-1) failed to block out on a consistent basis, and 6-foot-4 Alofa Toiaivao (14 points, 9 rebounds), 6-4 Brittany Grice (7 points, 7 rebounds) and 6-3 Tanya Smith (16 points, 8 rebounds) reaped the benefits.

“They’re a great offensive rebounding team,” Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni said, alluding to Hawai’i’s 15 offensive rebounds. “They lead the WAC. It’s not like we didn’t know that. We gave them too many second and third chances.

“Hawai’i is a great team. I’m not taking anything away from them. We had too many unforced turnovers. Defense and blocking out wasn’t very good.”

Hawai’i coach Jim Bolla especially praised the play of Toiaivao and Smith.

“That’s Lofa’s best game of the year,” Bolla said. “We got some easy baskets because of our post people. We’ve been rebounding well. We’ve had three or four games in the 50s.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. That’s how we’ve been playing. The last four minutes we played some good defense. Nevada never quit.”

Indeed. Meghan McGuire, who had 17 of her 28 in the second half, helped the Pack wipe out what was once a double-digit Hawai’i lead.

“I had some open looks,” McGuire said. “My teammates set some really good screens.”

“She likes to play against us,” Bolla said, remembering last year’s conference tournament loss to the Pack when McGuire scored 16 in a 65-61 win over Hawai’i.

A 9-0 run, including a clutch 3-pointer by Traci Graham, gavce Nevada a 71-69 lead with 3 minutes left in the game. McGuire had her last basket in that barrage.

The game started to unravel for the Pack, however.

Dalia Soli scored on a driving layup, tying the game at 71 with 2:38 left. On the next possession, McGuire tried to dribble behind her back and Amy Sanders stole the ball. Janevia Taylor (20 points) scored on a putback for a 73-71 advantage. Nevada again turned the ball over without a shot on the next possession when freshman Dellena Criner dribbled the ball off her foot out of bounds, and the Rainbow Wahine converted again when Solia scored on a layup and a 75-71 lead.

Nevada closed to 75-74 with 52.5 left when Criner redeemed herself with a nice three-point play. That would be Nevada’s last score of the game.

Sanders, who had an off night shooting (4 for 15), drilled one in from 15 feet for a 77-74 lead. After Taylor missed the front end of a 1 and 1, Nevada still had a chance.

Criner drove the lane and was supposed to kick the ball out to the wing. Instead it appeared she put up a shot or lost the ball going up. Ballgame.

Sanders was fouled on the ensuing possession, and her two free throws with 4.6 foiled the Pack’s comeback.

Nevada’s drought down the stretch was remniscent of the first half when Hawai’i went on a 12-2 run over a two-minute span to open up a 29-19 lead, and four different players contributed.

Grice snapped the 17-all tie with a layup at the 6:37 mark, and Sanders followed 20 seconds later with another basket from close range. After two free throws by Smith, Toiavao knocked in the second of her four first-half field goals for a 25-17 lead.

McGuire, whose 11 first-half points kept Nevada in the game, drained two free throws to make it 25-19. A layup by Smith and a jump shot by Toiavao completed the surge.

A runner by Graham and a 3-pointer by McGuire cut the deficit to 29-24, but a 9-4 surge in the final four minutes enabled Hawai’i to up its lead to 37-28. Taylor, who scored 11 in the first 20 minutes, had five points to lead the way.

Hawai’i opened the second half with five straight points to get its biggest lead of the night, 42-28, only to see Nevada continually whittle it down thanks to McGuire and Brandi Fitzgerald (10 points).

Nevada shot 54.5 percent in the final 20 minutes, but as Gervasoni pointed out, the defensive stops didn’t come often enough.

“It’s frustrating,” McGuire said. “We want to compete for a WAC championship, and you can’t do that losing home games. We have to come out ready to play.”

Notes: Nevada hosts San Jose State Saturday at 2 p.m. … Jessica Preslar picked up two fouls in the first half and saw limited action. She still managed 12 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes … Eleven of Nevada’s 17 turnovers came from three players – McGuire and Preslar had four each, and Criner turned it over three times. The 17 turnovers is a far cry from earlier in the year when Nevada was averaging 25 miscues a game… The loss was the fourth in Nevada’s last six games.