SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Playing in just its third road contest of the season, the Nevada women’s basketball team dropped a close 68-62 decision to Utah on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that featured nine lead changes and seven ties, the Wolf Pack (5-4, 0-1 MW) and Utes (6-3, 0-0 Pac-12) battled back and forth all game long. Neither team held more than a nine-point lead throughout the 40 minutes of action, but Nevada held the lead the longest, staying on top for just over 20 minutes.
The opening quarter belonged to the Wolf Pack as it recorded its best offensive showing of the game. Nevada totaled 22 points in the first frame and shot just under 48 percent from the field. The Pack had to dig its way back into the game though as the Utes built up an early nine-point advantage at the 4:55 mark. From there the Pack took over, embarking on a 16-2 run to end the period and take a five-point lead into the second quarter. The Nevada run was capped off by a half court heave from sophomore Essence Booker as time expired in the period.
In the second the Utes quickly erased the five-point lead, but the game remained close throughout the quarter. Neither team held more than a three-point advantage in the period, but a free throw by Utah’s Niyah Becker with 27 seconds left gave the Utes the one-point lead heading into halftime.
Nevada started to build some momentum in period three as the defense held Utah to no made field goals for nearly six minutes. During that stretch the Wolf Pack increased its lead to nine by the 1:45 mark of the period, getting seven points from Booker. Utah was not to be denied though as it turned on its offense in the final minute and a half of the third to cut the deficit to two heading into the final quarter.
The Utah defense played its best basketball in the fourth, holding Nevada to just 23.5 percent shooting in that period. The Pack still held the lead though through the midway mark of the quarter. Utah grabbed the lead for good after a 3-pointer by Brynna Maxwell with 5:11 to play put the Utes up by one. A pair of free throws by senior Marguerite Effa with 2:49 on the clock brought the Pack within two, but the Utes quickly ran the lead back up to six. Freshman Alyssa Jimenez banked in a triple with under a minute to play, bringing the Pack within three, but time was a factor, sealing the win for Utah.
Booker led the Wolf Pack in scoring, totaling a game-high 15 points. She tied her career-high with three made 3-pointers and added three rebounds and two assists. Sophomore Imani Lacy also reached double figures with 13 points and Effa added 12 points for the Pack. For Lacy it is her eighth game scoring in double figures in nine games this season.
Nevada remains on the road to compete in the Women of Troy Classic in Los Angeles, Calif. next weekend. The Wolf Pack will take on tournament-host USC on Friday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. and UTRGV on Saturday at 11 a.m.