Nevada women’s hoops top Broncos in OT | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada women’s hoops top Broncos in OT

BY THOMAS RANSON

Appeal News Service

RENO – The Nevada athletics department couldn’t have picked a better game to have a promotion for women’s sports.

“The marketing did a great job with the event today,” Nevada women’s basketball coach Kim Gervasoni said. “The girls deserve it. We play great basketball.”

Fueled by revenge from an earlier, heartbreaking loss in Boise, the Wolf Pack needed overtime to hand the league-leading Broncos its third straight loss after winning, 81-70, Saturday afternoon before 1,120 fans at Lawlor Events Center on “Girls and Women in Sports Day.”

Nevada, which is on a three-game winning streak, improved to 9-5 in the Western Athletic Conference while Boise State dropped to 10-4. Nevada was tied for third with Fresno State before Saturday’s game.

“It’s really gratifying. It’s awesome to come out (with a win),” said Tracy Graham, who broke Kate Smith’s record for career games played with 116. “We had a lot of energy and intensity.”

Graham powered a team-high 22 points, all coming from behind the arc and the free throw line. She hit five three 3-pointers and went 7-of-8 from the charity strip.

“It was how bad we wanted it today,” Graham said. “We were pumped up before the game.”

The Wolf Pack, who lost at Boise State, 68-65, on Jan. 8, had a supporting cast of players no worse than the nominated actors and actresses for the Oscars.

Dellena Criner scored 15 points and Jessica Preslar added 14, but the pleasant surprise of the afternoon came with Andrea Sitton. For most of the overtime period, though, Nevada’s starting five each had four fouls and never fouled out.

“From the last game, we came out and played very well,” Preslar said. “We played as a team. We played great team defense.”

Sitton finished the game with seven points, including a crucial 3-pointer and a long two as the shot clock sounded in overtime to put Nevada up 75-70 with a minute left. Sitton’s block with 2:53 left in the game prevented the Broncos from taking a win out of Reno.

“Beating Boise feels amazing,” said Sitton, who had a game-high three blocks. “We had something to prove today.”

Sitton’s block put the icing on the cake for Nevada’s defense. The Wolf Pack had a season-high seven blocks despite being the worst blocking team in the WAC.

“I look at stats a lot. I’m a stats person,” Gervasoni said. “I follow that because you see a team’s tendencies. We’re last in blocks. I told them to just let them (Boise) make shots and don’t foul them, just contest.”

It seemed nothing could keep Graham off the court with the physical style of play she mustered in the second half.

The McQueen high graduate drew three charging calls, was knocked in the head while on the floor and got hit by a flying elbow coming off a screen. Graham, though, didn’t back down and sunk in a pair of NBA-range 3-pointers.

“That’s kind of how I play,” Graham said. “She basically ran me down, but it happens.”

Losing to Nevada to end its road trip was not what Boise State had in mind. The Broncos lost at home to Fresno State before losing at San Jose State on Thursday.

Tasha Harris led four Broncos in double figures against Nevada as she scored a game-high 23 points. Jackie Lee scored 18 points, Rebecca Kepilino added 11 and Michelle Hessing had 10.

Gervasoni said the WAC regular season title is still up in the air, and Nevada has chance to win it with two games left. The Wolf Pack hosts Utah State on Thursday for the final home game of the year before traveling to New Mexico State on Saturday.

“Going into next week, it’s going to be crucial for us,” said Graham, one the team’s three seniors along with Preslar and Evelina Janisyte.

Nevada played its best 12 minutes of the season before letting Boise State come back into the game.

The Wolf Pack led 25-10 with eight minutes left in the first half, but the Broncos went on a 12-0 run after Lee hit a jumper. Preslar and Criner each sunk a free throw to give Nevada a 27-25 lead at halftime.