New Year’s Eve brings an air of renewal. It’s a chance to put the mistakes of the past 365 days to bed and focus on the next year.
That’s no different for Nevada, which began the new calendar with a pair of wins over Air Force and UNLV. However, 2015 has quickly turned sour as the Wolf Pack has lost four games in a row — including a 68-57 loss to Utah State and a 62-44 beatdown to Fresno State last week.
What went right in the two wins hasn’t carried over lately. Nevada’s major issue during its struggle has been shooting. Against Air Force, Nevada shot 49 percent and 40 percent in wins against the Falcons and Rebels, respectively. Moreover, they held both to 33 percent and 29 shooting, largely in part to senior Mimi Mungedi’s defensive presence down low and the Pack’s staunch defense.
The past two weeks have been a different story. Shots are not falling, and players are not getting to the free-throw line. When Nevada played Fresno on Jan. 10, the Wolf Pack went to the charity stripe just five times. During the two’s rematch on Saturday, Jan. 24, Nevada drew 15 free throw attempts but only made five shots.
“We need to be able to make shots,” Mungedi said. “That’s all it is. We have to be able to make shots. We were not able to.”
“[Shooting] is a mental thing,” said Wolf Pack forward Emily Burns. “I know for myself when I get in a shot rhythm and I’m not hitting a couple, you second guess your shot every time. We have to really not think about that because you’re not going to make shorts like that unless you take them and that’s how we have to have our mentality set for that.”
Shooting has become Nevada’s most significant problem after a who’s-who list of injuries. Star point guard Terilyn Moe has been out since November with an ACL tear, while Nyasha LeSure missed the latest Fresno State game due to an ankle injury.
Burns missed nearly all of the pre-conference schedule due to a knee injury. She feared that she would miss her senior season but came back into the lineup after undergoing a Meniscectomy instead of a repair surgery.
“I’m glad to be back,” Burns said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad I can come back and help my team where they need me. I’m so happy I got to play my senior year.”
While offense has been lacking, the Wolf Pack’s grit isn’t in question. Despite a lopsided loss to the Bulldogs, Nevada’s bench chanted “defense” throughout, trying to fire up their teammates.
Hustle wasn’t missing either. Wolf Pack players routinely fought and dove for every loose ball.
It’s this type of mentality that separates teams down the stretch, and it’s what the Wolf Pack will need to end its struggles with games against UNLV and Wyoming this week.
“I think that is going to help us in games where it is close, where it comes down to that last second shot, where we’re down by two and there’s 20 seconds left on the clock,” Burns said. “We know we have to fight the entire game whether it’s a 10-point game or a two-point game.”
Nevada is on the hunt to give head coach Jane Albright her 500th win. Albright is seven wins shy of the milestone with 12 games remaining. She would become the 32th active head coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball to reach the 500-win mark.
Nicole Skow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.