Aggie women rally for 75-66 win over Nevada Wednesday in WAC Tournament quarterfinals

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, March 8 2012 9:00 a.m. MST

LAS VEGAS — A 9-0 second-half spurt as part of a 17-6 run and four players in double-figures sparked Utah State women’s basketball to a 75-66 win over Nevada Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena at Las Vegas.

In making their highest seeded appearance in the WAC Tournament, the second-seeded Aggies extended their school-record win total, improving to 21-8 overall, by winning their fourth game in a row and sixth in the last seven. Nevada ended its season with a 7-23 record. It was USU’s first win over Nevada in a WAC Tournament, last meeting in the 2007 first round, won by the Wolf Pack, 61-60, in Las Cruces, N.M. The Aggies also evened their record versus the Wolf Pack all time at 9-9 overall and 8-8 as fellow WAC foes, as Wednesday’s win was USU’s fifth straight over Nevada.

Utah State advances to the semifinals of the WAC Tournament for second-straight season, and its three semifinal appearances have all come in the last four years. Wednesday’s win improves to 3-6 in the WAC Tournament.

The Aggies advance to a meeting with third-seeded Louisiana Tech in Friday’s semifinal round. The Lady Techsters defeated sixth-seeded Hawaii, 63-54, earlier today. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

Junior guard Devyn Christensen led USU with 18 points, while junior guard Jenna Johnson and senior forward Ashlee Brown added 17 points apiece with senior guard Brooke Jackson adding 15 points. Brown also dished out a game and career-best 12 assists, tying for second in school history, becoming the ninth Aggie player to distribute 12 helpers in a game. The senior forward also missed a triple-double with a team-best eight rebounds. Brown’s double-double was her 11th of the season, breaking last year’s season-best of 10.

USU was out-rebounded, 38-35, but had a 20-17 second-half edge. Jackson pulled down seven rebounds, while freshman forward Franny Vaaulu snared six boards to go along with a career-high three blocked shots, matching Brown for game-high honors.

Utah State also had a second-half advantage in scoring, rallying from a 32-28 halftime deficit, improving to 3-6 when trailing at intermission with two of the three wins coming over Nevada. The Aggies put together a second-half rally in their 84-72 regular-season win at Reno on Feb. 16.

Nevada was also led by a double-double, with Kate Kevorken netting 21 points to go with a game-best 12 rebounds. Emily Burns added 11 points while Kayla Williams netted 10.

“Two teams played a really, really, tough game today. Two teams full of players that really respect each other a lot. There’s individual players on each team that you can’t help going into your game plan really not underestimating,” USU head coach Raegan Pebley said. “You look at a kid like Kate Kevorken and what she’s done in her short time at Nevada. I think she has a huge, huge heart. We put a lot of pressure on Amanda Johnson, and you just never saw her fold. Her leadership out there was tremendous.”

Utah State shot 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) from the field, including 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from 3-point range, and the Aggies were 16-of-20 (80.0 percent) at the free-throw line. Nevada hit 42.4 percent (28-of-66) of its field goals, making 2-of-8 (25.0 percent) behind the arc, and 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) at the charity stripe.

The Aggies dished out 20 assists, while swiping seven steals as part of forcing 15 Wolf Pack turnovers. USU also had six blocks, which was one shy of its season high.

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