Nevada basketball season is back in full swing and the women’s team opened the season with an exhibition against Academy of Art Friday, Nov. 7. The Wolf Pack gave fans a glimpse of what is store for the rest of the season,after cruising to a 74-51 victory.
“I think it’s a great win for us,” said forward Emily Burns. “Everyone wants to win their home opener, so it’s definitely lifted our spirits. We know we can dominate like this on the court and it just lets us know that this is how we want to play and this is how we’re going to play. We just need to keep it up like this.”
The Mountain West preseason poll put Nevada in the middle of the bunch, predicting that the Wolf Pack would finish fifth, despite finishing third last season. The Wolf Pack lost almost 40 percent of its scoring with the exit of Danika Sharp and Arielle Wideman, who were the Pack’s first and third leading scorers, respectively.
“We aren’t so much looking at replacing that as we are at looking at a different strategy,” said Wolf Pack associate head coach Camille Williams. “We want to be more of an inside game team, which will open up our outside play. We got Emily Burns moving out from a post position to a guard position, so that allows us to play more inside-out so our outside game will come from the perimeter but, for now, we want to emphasize getting the ball inside.”
The inside game might be where the Wolf Pack talent is deepest. When reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year Mimi Mungedi starts, she tends to get into foul trouble, allowing players such as Aja Johnson, Nyasha LeSure, Julia Shelbourn and Teige Zeller to get quality minutes. Friday’s game allowed the coaching staff to work on the bench players to show the coaching staff why they deserve to play.
Moreover, the freshman made quite a splash in the home opener. Wing player Mariah Williams had four rebounds, while Zeller put up eight points and seven rebounds, four of which were offensive. Despite being categorized as a freshmen, the team doesn’t view them in that light.
“We don’t look at them as freshmen,” said point guard Terilyn Moe. “They’re a part of the team. We don’t hold them any lower than us. They’re a part of the team and we expect them to produce.”
With the arrival of only five new players, the team’s roster is largely unchanged from last year. A few tweaks have been made, such as Burns playing guard instead of post, but the biggest change has been Moe’s shift back to point guard. She has spent her college career playing shooting guard after playing point guard in high school. This past summer, she attended a point guard camp to help get back in the rhythm of things.
“It really helps me to be on the court, and I kind of like to set the tone by example,” Moe said. “What I learned most there was speaking to your teammates, encouraging them, saying names, so being a vocal leader.”
Burns has also noticed a change in Moe since the year has started.
“I think that now she’s moved back to it, she’s more comfortable at (point guard),” Burns said. “She still looks for her shot, but she’s really good at commanding the floor, letting us know what she wants from us, where she’s going to pass it and all that, so I think it’s just helped her be aware of where everyone is on the court and how to get the team to run what we need to run.”
Nevada will be back in action Friday against UC Santa Barbara. The Wolf Pack will look to carry over dominance from the exhibition, while still playing the basic basketball head coach Jane Albright and the staff has instilled in the players.
“We’ve got a really deep team,” Albright said. “We just keep letting them try to improve. Certainly there were a lot of things we needed to work on, but I thought for the first game it was really exceptional.”
Nicole Skow can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.