Nevada women lose third straight game, 65-60 to Rice | NevadaAppeal.com
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Nevada women lose third straight game, 65-60 to Rice

Jeremy Evans

RENO — Two days after holding a big lead over Tulsa in the Western Athletic Conference opener and losing, the Nevada women’s basketball team did the same on Saturday against Rice.

The Wolf Pack held double digit leads on two occasions in the first half but allowed the Owls back into the game as Rice snapped a four-game losing streak with a 65-60 win in front of 340 fans at Lawlor Events Center.

“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” said coach Ada Gee, whose team lost for the third-straight game. “I think you have to recognize that these are very good teams and basketball is a game of runs. We opened up 9, 14 point leads but in college basketball teams make runs.”

Playing without starter April Bankston, who had a death in the family, the Wolf Pack (7-5 overall, 0-2 WAC) was out rebounded for the sixth consecutive game. And not even Laura Ingham’s first career triple-double could mask how bad Nevada needs Ashley Bastian for it to win games.

Two weeks after Bastian scored 23 points in a win over San Diego, the school’s career leader in 3-point field goals had only one trey to finish with three points against Rice. It was the third straight game she hasn’t scored in double figures, all losses. The Wolf Pack is now 0-5 when Bastian doesn’t score in double figures.

“We gotta’ work harder to get her open and she’s gotta’ work harder to get open,” said Gee of Bastian, who was only 1-of-2 from the field. “I think it was difficult for other perimeter players to get into a flow. We have three players who are our primary options (Ingham, Bastian and Kate Smith). We need to get them in situations to score.”

Smith and Ingham surely did. Smith finished with 21 points and Ingham had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. It was Ingham’s sixth game this season that she’s finished with 10 or more assists.

The former Alaska prep star, though, didn’t want to talk about her performance after the game. She was still trying to figure out her team, who led 18-5 in the first half and 29-15 later in the half, lost their second consecutive WAC at home.

“Well, it sucks, working that hard and still coming up short,” Ingham said. “It seems a little bit like the Tulsa game. We just need to open up leads and keep them. We have to work harder on keeping them.”

Nevada led 33-28 at halftime but immediately watched the Owls, who played much of the game without their best player, Johnetta Hayes, go on a 10-0 run to start the half and take a 38-37 lead after Lindsey Maynard’s 3-pointer. It was Rice’s first lead of the game since it was 1-0.

“I did think in the second half we came out flat,” Gee said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t come out with the same intensity. We went away a little bit from our transition game but you need to rebound to do that. That’s getting away from what we do best. We need to get more aggressive.”

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, there was one tie and nine lead changes, the last being when the Owls (3-7, 1-1) went up 49-48 on a pair of Elisa Inman free throws. Inman led Rice with 14 points. Hayes, who leads Rice in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, played only 15 minutes because of a knee injury but still ended with 11 points.

“These games are hard to lose,” said Smith, who had 13 points at halftime. “We’re really disappointed. This one stings a lot. This only our second conference game (though). Some nights people aren’t going to get it. You know, Ash, they had her locked up. It hurts that we didn’t have April but the people who came in and replaced April really stepped up.”

Freshman Jemela Magee started for Bastian and finished with six points. Shermeka Henry and Ingrid Johnson had four more for the Wolf Pack, who now go on the road to play UTEP and Boise State.

“The younger players are having an opportunity to gain some experience and play some key minutes,” Gee said. “We definitely need to steal back two games. Actually, I shouldn’t call it stealing because we’re very capable of winning these next two games.”

Ingham’s basket with 2:10 left in the game brought Nevada within five, 59-54. Then the Wolf Pack missed their next two shots and the Owls went back up 62-54. Nevada never seriously threatened again. Rice outscored Nevada 20-14 from the free throw line. The Owls’ 2-7 start to the season was their worst since 1989-90. The Owls also won for the first game on the road this season after going 0-4 previously.