RENO, Nev. – Thanks to another second half comeback, the Nevada women’s basketball team defeated in-state rival UNLV, 62-59, Wednesday evening to earn its third straight victory.
The Wolf Pack (13-12, 6-8 MW) needed to overcome, not only a six-point halftime deficit, but more importantly a 12-point deficit at the 5:57 mark of the third quarter. This marked Nevada’s third consecutive victory when trailing at halftime, and its second in three games when trailing by double digits in the third quarter. The Pack tightened up its defense and let loose on offense for the remaining quarter and a half in order to edge the Mountain West’s third place team.
A much needed 3-pointer by sophomore Essence Booker was the spark the Pack had been looking for as it began to chip away at the deficit. The Lady Rebels (12-12, 8-5 MW) didn’t give up their lead easily as they still held on to a nine-point advantage until the 2:30 mark of the period. A block by sophomore Amaya West on a UNLV 3-point attempt allowed senior Marguerite Effa to score a quick bucket on a fast break, dropping the deficit to seven. In a 32 second span, junior Nia Alexander scored five more points for the Wolf Pack, bringing her team within two at the end of the third.
Much of the fourth quarter belonged to neither side as the two teams continue to trade baskets back and forth. It wasn’t until the 2:58 mark of the quarter that Nevada began to put some distance between itself and its opponent, staking a five-point lead. The lead shrunk to three on the next UNLV possession, but bounced back up to five after a key steal by freshman Alyssa Jimenez on a Lady Rebels inbound pass with 49 seconds to go. Jimenez then tossed the ball up to sophomore Imani Lacy, whose layup gave Nevada a five-point cushion.
The game was far from over, however. UNLV’s Rodjanae Wade was able to shrink the lead back down to three on its next possession. Lacy was then sent to the foul line with 34 seconds to go, where she missed both. Wade drew a foul on the ensuing UNLV possession and hit 1-of-2, bringing the Lady Rebels within two. It came down to Nevada hitting its free throws down the stretch in the last 25 seconds of the quarter, starting with two from Booker. UNLV still kept fighting, knocking down a triple with 14 seconds on the clock, which shrunk the Pack lead to one. Booker though nailed two more free throw attempts and Nevada got the stop of defense that it needed on UNLV’s final possession to seal the 62-59 victory.
Nevada had three players score in double figures, led by 14 from Effa, who was nearly perfect from the field, hitting 7-of-9. Alexander and Booker also reached double figures as they both added 11 points each. For Booker, she has now scored in double figures in eight consecutive games. The Wolf Pack got 32 points from its bench and turned 19 UNLV turnovers into 21 points. Nevada fell one assist shy from tying its season high of 20 and was led in the assist department by Booker, Jimenez and junior Miki’ala Maio, who each had three.
Nevada is off this weekend but will return to the court to host New Mexico next Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. for its Play4Kay pink game.