By Alexa Ard
Of the last eight tournaments, the Pack has made it to the championship game of the John Ascuaga’s Nugget Classic that Nevada hosts in Lawlor Events Center seven times. Yet, a championship appearance wasn’t in the Pack’s favor this year, despite its competitive performance.
Although there were standouts from several players on the Wolf Pack, it wasn’t enough to propel them to take down Idaho in their first game of the tournament on Friday. Nonetheless, at certain points it did look like Nevada could have taken the win.
With 1:51 left in the first half, the Pack had come back from an 11-point deficit to take a 35-33 lead with a three-pointer from freshman Ashlee Jones. Yet, Idaho had the final say at halftime with a 39-37 lead.
The game remained close until the final ten minutes. That’s when the Vandals broke away and gained a strong lead. By the time the scoreboard read 4:18, Idaho was up 79-67, and the Wolf Pack wasn’t able to pull ahead.
The players that kept Nevada in the game were sophomore Terilyn Moe, who finished with 12 points, senior Amber Smith with 11 and shooting guard Danika Sharp, who notched nine buckets.
However, the player who made the biggest difference was Nevada’s six-foot-eight center Mimi Mungedi. This Gabon native who once struggled with the fundamentals of the game when she first came to Nevada two years ago led the team in the 88-77 loss with 19 points.
“We were right there with them, and they’re an NCAA team with everybody back,” said Nevada head coach Jane Albright. “But this was a great game for us. We were really proud of our effort and just came up short. There wasn’t anything specific that we didn’t do well. I thought we played very well.”
The Vandals may have finished with a higher percentage in free throws and three pointers, but the Pack finished with a field goal percentage of 51.9 percent compared to Idaho’s 41.7 percent.
However, it didn’t help that the Pack has been missing junior and one of the team captains Emily Burns since its game against Cal Poly on Nov. 21, due to a concussion. Burns did not compete in the consolation game the next day either, and Albright said she does not know when she will return.
Yet, that didn’t stop anyone on the Pack from showing up to play against Wake Forest on Saturday. Nevada took down the Deacons 95-87, and Wake Forest head coach Jen Hoover had high praises for Pack point guard Arielle Wideman.
“I give a lot of credit to (Nevada),” Hoover said in a postgame interview posted by Wake Forest Demon Deacon Athletics. “Number 32, Wideman, their point guard just played the half of her life. I mean, she almost played a perfect half in the first half, and we really didn’t respond to that.”
The guards practically ran the show in this over 90-point finish for Nevada. Wideman got the team off to a hot start with two three-pointers that gave Nevada an early 10-5 lead. She finished with 22 points and five assists.
Guards Danika Sharp and Terilyn Moe got into more of a rhythm in the second half and ended up finishing with 23 points each. After the threes Sharp scored in the tournament, she moved past Tahnee Robinson (2009-11) to sit in fourth place of Nevada’s all-time made three pointer list with 141.
“Those three guards, they scored really, really well,” Albright said.
She also noted the contribution from the bench such as Anna Cameron, Kelsey Kaelin, Aja Johnson and Julia Shelbourn.
Nevada finished with 73.7 percent from the free throw line, 49.2 percent in field goals and 41.2 percent from behind the arc against the Deacons.
The Wolf Pack may have not made it to the championship game, but Albright was proud of the way her team competed nonetheless.
“I hope we got some confidence that we played with teams that are NCAA quality teams, and if we play together and play like we know we can play, then we can be successful,” she said.
Alexa Ard can be reached at email@example.com.