NEVADA WOLF PACK (11-8, 5-1 WAC) vs. FRESNO STATE (11-7, 4-1 WAC)
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007 - 7 p.m. (PST) - Save Mart Center - Fresno, Calif.
TV/RADIO: www.wac.tv / KXTO 1550 AM
SERIES HISTORY: Fresno State leads 18-8
LAST MEETING: Fresno State won, 73-48, at Fresno State on March 4, 2006
ABOUT THIS GAME
Nevada hits the road for a single game as it travels to face Fresno State on Thursday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The Wolf Pack’s four-game conference winning streak will be on the line against Bulldogs along with second-place in Western Athletic Conference as Nevada leads the Bulldogs by just a half-game.
Fresno State holds an 18-8 lead in the overall series between the schools. Last year’s season series was split with each team winning on its home court Nevada took a 68-67 win at Lawlor Events Center and Fresno State won 73-48 at the Save Mar Center.
ABOUT FRESNO STATE
The Bulldogs are 11-7 overall and off to a 4-1 start in Western Athletic Conference play following their last game, a 70-63 victory over San Jose State.
Fresno State is led by junior Tierre Wilson, who is averaging 15.4 points per game, and senior Chantella Perera, who is scoring 14.7 ppg. Those two players, along with backcourt mate Brittani Green, have started all 18 games for the Bulldogs. Wilson is leading the team with 6.0 rebounds per games.
The Bulldogs are coached by Adrian Wiggins, who is in his third year at the school and has an overall record of 42-19. Fresno State was picked by both the media and the coaches to finish second in the WAC preseason polls.
LAST TIME OUT
Nevada roared back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take a 74-70 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center. Dellena Criner scored a game-high 19 points as Nevada ran its home win streak to five games and its overall win streak to four games. Brandi Fitzgerald scored 15 points and Traci Graham scored 13 all in the second half as Nevada moved its record to 11-8 overall and 5-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Down eight points at halftime, Nevada came out strong in the second half, cutting the margin to 3 on a Marianne Lombardi layup with 18:12 to play. The Aggies would push the lead back up to 10 points with under 10 minutes to play before Nevada really got going. A 12-4 Nevada run capped by free throws from Criner got the Wolf Pack within 2 with 4:26 to play. Criner hit two more free throws she was 8-of-8 from the line with 1:54 to play to tie the game and Nevada took the lead for good on Andrea Sitton’s free throw with 1:17 to go.
The teams traded baskets in a sluggish first three minutes of the game before the Aggies took control with an 11-0 run. A jumper by NMSU’s Kayla Henry gave the Aggies a 31-18 lead with six minutes to go in the half but Nevada was able to cut the margin to eight, 37-29, going into the half.
Nevada outrebounded the Aggies 36-34 as Jessica Preslar led the way with six rebounds. Sitton, Lombardi and Fitzgerald each pulled down five boards.
Two local radio stations will combine to air 20 Nevada women’s basketball games during the regular season. The broadcast schedule started with Nevada’s own John Ascuaga’s Nugget Classic at Lawlor Events Center during the first week in December.
Nine of the games will be carried live by ESPN Radio 630 AM, the flagship station for Wolf Pack athletics. The remaining 11 games will be carried live on KXTO 1550 AM. Broadcasts will begin 15 minutes prior to top-off for each game. In addition, all of the team’s games in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament will be broadcast.
Broadcasting duties will rotate among members of the Wolf Pack Sports Network crew, which includes the “Voice of the Wolf Pack” Dan Gustin, Don Marchand and Ben Deach with Deach handling the the bulk of the games. Kurt Esser will occasionally serve as a color commentator during the broadcast from games at Lawlor Events Center.
MASTERING THE ART OF THIEVERY
The most important statistic other than the win/loss column for the Nevada Wolf Pack is steals. The program prides itself on its defensive pressure and the statistics are impressive thus far this season.
Nevada is averaging 12.84 steals per contest and is ranked 10th in the country. The next best team in the WAC in steals is Louisiana Tech at 10.26 per game. The Wolf Pack has three players ranked in the top six in the WAC in steals per game, led by sophomore guard Dellena Criner who leads the WAC and is 35th in the country and 2.8 steals per game. Guard Brandi Fitzgerald and Traci Graham fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Pack’s proficiency in recording steals and forcing turnovers has the team ranked tops in the WAC in turnover margin per game at plus-4.42.
Earlier this year, Nevada tied a school record with 22 steals against Sacramento State, a game in which the Pack forced 37 turnovers by the Hornets.
NEVADA PICKED THIRD
Nevada was picked this in the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll in October. In addition, Nevada was pegged for fourth in the media poll. Sophomore Brandi Fitzgerald was picked by the coaches and the media as a preseason first-team All-WAC member, the first such time a Nevada player has ever received that honor since the school joined the conference prior to the 2000-01 season.
GRAHAM SOLIDIFYING HER LEGACY
Senior Traci Graham will likely finish her career as one of the top players in Wolf Pack history. The gritty guard from Reno’s McQueen High School has been a model of consistency during her career as she has never missed a game a stretch of 108 straight.
On Dec. 8 at Sacramento State, Graham had a five-steal effort, which vaulted her past Carissa Meyer and Angie Heer into first place on Nevada’s all-time steals chart. Graham also ranks in the top 10 on three other Nevada career charts: scoring, assists and 3-pointers (the charts can be found on page 6 of this release). She entered the top 10 of the scoring chart with a career-high 23-point effort in Nevada’s 69-68 nail-biting victory over UC Irvine on Dec. 17.
PRESLAR ONE OFF THE PACE
Senior forward Jessica Preslar came to Nevada the same year as Graham and is just one behind her teammate on Nevada’s career games-played list. Preslar has missed just one game in her career, having played in 107 out of a possible 108 contests.
Each of the two seniors has the opportunity to break the school record for games played in a career before their careers end this season. That mark is held by Kate Smith (1999-2003), who played in 115 games.
CRINER BREAKING OUT
After a strong freshman campaign, sophomore guard Dellena Criner got off to a blistering start to the 2006-07 season and has continued that high level of play into the Western Athletic Conference season. Criner leads the team in scoring, steals and assists so far this year. She set a career-high of 24 points in a win at San Diego State and then broke it with a 25-point effort against Auburn on Dec. 1. A 3-pointer at the buzzer against Boise State on Jan. 8 was waved off and would have given Criner a career high of 27, not to mention send that game into overtime.
Criner’s scoring has been remarkably efficient as she is hitting 48 percent from the field. She also has a free-throw percentage of .745 and ranks among Nevada’s career leaders in that category. Overall, Criner is averaging 14.4 points per game, up from 7.0 as a freshman last season.
FRESHMEN STEPPING UP
Nevada’s two true freshmen have begun to make an impact this season as the Wolf Pack begins play in the Western Athletic Conference.
Forward Marianne Lombardi (Yakima, Wash.) has played in every game and made seven starts for Nevada. She’s averaging nearly 20 minutes of playing time with 5.2 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. She established herself as one of the best rebounders on the team and an effective scorer (45 percent from the field).
Marissa Hammond (Pendleton, Ore.) got off to a slow start but has been playing well as of late. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged nearly nine points per game in Nevada’s final four non-conference games, including a career-best 10 points at UNLV.
MOVING ON UP
Both Graham and Preslar can make some headway on Nevada’s career record books during WAC play. Graham is already tops all-time in steals and between the two of them, they are in the top 10 in eight career statistical categories. Sophomroe Dellena Criner is ranked in two other categories career free throw percentange and career 3-point shooting percentage. The rankings can be found on page 6 of this release.
IT IS A TEAM SPORT
You won’t see a lot of gaudy individual or awards on the Nevada team because the program’s philosopy, style of play and depth don’t lend itself to those types of things. For example, Nevada has 11 players this season who are averaging double-figures in minutes played as the Wolf Pack rotates a lot of players to keep those on the floor fresh for its up-tempo, high pressure style of play. As a result, the statistics are shared by a number of players.
Nevada enters this week leading the WAC in scoring but it does not have a single player ranked in the top five in the conference in indivudal scoring and has only two players ranked in the top 15 in scoring. The Wolf Pack has had six different players lead the team in scoring this season and five different players pace the team in rebounding.
NEVADA'S RECORD BY STARTING LINEUP
The Wolf Pack has used five different starting lineups so far this season with all of the changes among frontcourt players. The backcourt trio of Dellena Criner, Traci Graham and Brandi Fitzgerald has started every game this season.
BEST START IN 25 YEARS
Nevada jumped out to a 3-0 start this season, matching the school’s best-known start. After beating Cal Poly at home to open the year, the Wolf Pack knocked off San Diego State on the road before notching a 75-58 victory over Idaho State. That matched the 3-0 start by the 1981-82 team. Complete historical records only go back to 1979.
The Wolf Pack did not have to wait long to get its first double-double of the season as junior forward Cherlanda Franklin pulled it off in the season opener. Franklin scored 10 points and pulled down a career-best 10 rebounds for her first-ever double-double. Franklin narrowly missed her second-straight double-double against San Diego State as she fell one rebound short. Last season, Nevada had just one double-double a 17-point, 11-rebound effort by Brandi Fitzgerald against San Jose State.
Senior forward Jessica Preslar recorded her first double-double of the season with a 12-point, 11-rebound effort against San Jose State on Jan. 13.
Nevada will likely not have the services of forward Cherlanda Franklin for the rest of the season. The athletic junior started the first five games of the season and was off to a hot start with 9.8 points per game and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game. But Franklin injured her knee a bone bruise in practice in December and has not played since. It was hoped that Franklin could return during the early part of Western Athletic Conference play but the junior will likely seek a redshirt season.
KEYS TO REDSHIRT
Nevada was hoping to get the services of senior forward Sabrina Keys around the start of Western Athletic Conference play. But the Suisin, Calif., native will redshirt this season due to hamstring tendinitis, a condition related to her rehabilitation from a knee injury suffered last season. The 6-foot-2 forward, who started her collegiate career at Purdue, played in 16 games last year for Nevada, starting 8. Keys will be a fifth-year senior next season for the Wolf Pack.
Nevada’s 78-68 victory over Idaho on Jan. 6 marked an important moment in the Kim Geravsoni era it was the first time Nevada won the first game of the Western Athletic Conference season since the coach took over prior to the 2003-04 season. This is Nevada’s seventh season in the WAC and it marked just the second time that the Wolf Pack won a conference opener and the first time that Nevada won its first road conference game. Nevada won its 2005-06 season debut on Nov. 11 with a 76-62 victory over Cal Poly at Lawlor Events Center. With the win, Nevada evened its record in season openers to 14-14 since 1979-80 and coach Kim Gervasoni is now 2-2 in season openers at Nevada.
Nevada has already signed four West Coast prep stars who will join the team next season. On Nov. 8, the first day of the early signing period, Nevada received signed National Letters of Intent from: Jennifer Gross, a 6-foot guard from Berkeley (Calif.) High School; Shavon Moore, a 6-foot-2 forward from J.W. North High School in Riverside, Calif.; Johnna Ward, a 5-foot-8 guard from Spring Creek (Nev.) High School; and Nicole Williams, a 5-foot-9 guard from Laguna Creek High School in Sacramento, Calif. Nevada has one more available scholarship to give for the 2007-08 season.
Senior guard Traci Graham made the all-tournament team in both of the events that Nevada played in this season.
Graham was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Coors Classic hosted by Colorado. In two games, Graham scored 22 points and had five assists. She followed that up with a combined 30 points and four steals during Nevada’s own John Ascuaga’s Nugget Classic. She was joined on the Nugget team by teammate Dellena Criner, who had 44 points, six assists and seven steals in the two games.
Nevada will have a week off before its next game, which is Feb. 1 at Lawlor Events Center against Louisiana Tech. The last time these two teams met was on Jan. 18 and Nevada scored the biggest victory of the Kim Gervasoni era, and possibly in the history of the program, when it took a 55-54 decision in Ruston, La. It was Nevada’s first-ever victory against the Lady Techsters in 13 tries and it marked just Louisiana Tech’s second home conference loss since 1992.
After the Louisiana Tech game, Nevada will hit leave again for a single game, this one at Hawaii on Feb. 3.