Women’s NIT: USC tops Nevada Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Women’s NIT: USC tops Nevada Wolf Pack

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack women’s basketball season came to an abrupt end Sunday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.

“I have to tip my hat to USC,” Wolf Pack coach Jane Albright said after a 78-59 loss to the USC Trojans in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. “They were just the better team today and I’m not ashamed of that.”

The Trojans, who squeezed past UC Santa Barbara, 67-64, in the WNIT first round on Thursday, led the entire game. USC, now 21-12, jumped out to an 8-0 lead two and a half minutes into the game and led 11-2 after a 3-pointer by Briana Gilbreath a minute later.

“Truthfully speaking, I don’t know how they weren’t in the NCAA Tournament,” said Albright of USC.

The Pack, which beat St. Mary’s, 65-62, on Thursday for the program’s first-ever national postseason tournament victory, ends its season at 22-11. The 22 victories are a school record.

“I wouldn’t trade my team for that team,” said Albright of USC. “I am really proud of what this team has done. This group has changed the culture of women’s basketball at the University of Nevada. These players have become role models for young people everywhere and I could not be more proud of them.”

The Wolf Pack, though, never threatened the Trojans.

Tahnee Robinson drained a 3-pointer to cut the Trojans lead to 18-11 with 11:32 to go in the first half. But a 3-pointer and a short jumper by Jacki Gemelos gave USC a commanding 30-11 lead with 7:12 to play in the half.

Gemelos led the Trojans with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals. Cassie Harberts added 15 points and Christina Marinacci had 10 for the Trojans.

Robinson led the Pack with 19 points. The senior, though, missed 15 of her 21 shots from the field as the Pack shot just 35% from the field overall. USC, which was just 7-of-8 from the free throw line (the Pack was 15-of-19), shot 49% from the field.

Kate Kevorken added 12 and Johnna Ward had 10 for the Pack.

“This program is completely black and white from what it was when I first got here,” said Ward, a senior playing her final game. “Over my career I have seen this team really come together and has come such a long way. I am very proud of all of us for what we have done over the last four years.”

Ward, Robinson and Kevorken each had 3-pointers in the final six minutes of the first half as the Pack trailed 44-26 at halftime.

Ward had a 3-pointer 90 seconds into the second half to cut USC’s lead to 46-31 and Robinson converted a 3-point play to cut the deficit to 56-40 with just under 13 minutes to go.

“I felt like in the second half my team really brought it,” Albright said. “But it just wasn’t enough.”

The loss came in front of a Wolf Pack women’s basketball record crowd of 3,361, according to the Nevada media services department. The biggest crowd for a women’s basketball game before Sunday was 3,160 for a victory over North Texas in 2000.

“I think it’s so great to see so many people come out for us,” said Robinson, a senior. “It means so much to me to hear people just thanking me for playing here. It makes me sad that it’s over and I just wished I had more time here. All of the people of Nevada have become like another family for me and I’ve never had anything like that anywhere.”

USC will take on BYU in the third round of the WNIT.