Criner scores 23 to lead Nevada over Utah State in WAC tourney
Nevada coach Kim Gervasoni made a bold move down the stretch of her team's first-round matchup against Utah State in the WAC Tournament.
Gervasoni, whose team prides itself on its tenacious man-to-man defense, switched to a seldom-used zone defense with under 4 minutes to play. The gamble paid off as the Wolf Pack came back for a 61-60 victory March 7 to move into the tournament semifinals.
"I thought the zone was really the difference in the game at the end," Gervasoni said. Asked how much time she dedicates in practice to the zone, she smiled and said simply, "Zero."
But Nevada, which trailed for most of the game and by as many as 11 points in the second half, held Utah State without a field goal over the final 5:45 to get the victory.
Sophomore guard Dellena Criner led all scorers with 23 points while Brandi Fitzgerald and Jessica Preslar each scored eight for the Wolf Pack. It was Preslar's post move and layup with 30 seconds to go that gave Nevada its first lead since early in the first half and proved to be the difference in the game.
"She wanted the ball at the end when the game was close and proved herself," Gervasoni said of Preslar.
Nevada won its first game in the tournament for the third straight year and advanced to the semifinals for the second straight season. The third-seeded Wolf Pack will take on No. 7 New Mexico State March 9 at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific). NMSU upset No. 2-seed Louisiana Tech earlier on Wednesday.