"The first half was totally forgettable," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We have to get the players to understand mental toughness. You have to have pride in the uniform you are putting on. Fortunately, things got a lot better and we played a solid second half."
MSU had major offensive struggles in the first half. The Lady Bulldogs only shot 25 percent from the field, while hitting 9-of-36 shots, including 5-of-13 shots from 3-point range. The hole was established late in the first half and the Wolfpack (3-10) did a fine job of digging it deeper.
Nevada pulled away from an early 11-11 tie with eight straight points. MSU went better than four minutes without scoring before Porsha Porter rammed home a 3-point basket. After a steal and layup by Porter, Diamber Johnson hit a game-tying 3-point basket.
This time, Nevada went on the offensive attack. The Maroon and White went another four minutes without scoring as Nevada opened a 10-point advantage on a 3-point basket by Kate Kevorken.
Nevada shot 56.5 percent from the floor in the first half and led 35-24 at the intermission.
"We were not executing our assignments on defense," Fanning-Otis said. "We had a great deal of difficulty in stopping the penetration. We didn't have a lot of focus or intensity about what we were trying to do.
"When the shots aren't falling, you have to be even better on the defensive end."
The Wolfpack actually enjoyed a 16-point lead on three occasions, the last of which was at 47-31 with 15:23 left in the contest. Strong inside play by Catina Bett and Ashley Brown slowly sparked a comeback.
The Lady Bulldogs were within nine two minutes later. MSU got within six on a Porter layup at 59-53 with 9:16 left. Porter would later tie the teams at 59 as she capped an 11-0 run with a 3-point basket at the 7:26 mark.
Nevada quickly built the lead back to four before MSU answered with a Jerica James 3-pointer at the 5:27 mark. The Lady Bulldogs took the lead on a Shamira Johnson jumper with 2:40 left. Kendra Grant scored a critical insurance basket with 43 seconds left.
The MSU defensive effort saved the day as Nevada was held to two field goals over the final 9:47 of play.
"Our defensive intensity was much better in the second half," Fanning-Otis said. "We hold them to 37 percent shooting in the second half and that is a number we can live with. We did a better job of taking care of the basketball on our offensive end and forcing some turnovers on the defensive end there late in the game."
For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 23 of 67 shots from the field (34.3 percent), 10 of 24 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent) and 11 of 16 shots from the foul line (68.8 percent). MSU hit 10 second-half free throws after only attempting two in the first half. The Wolfpack hit 24 of 53 shots from the field (45.3 percent), 5 of 19 shots from 3-point range (26.3 percent) and 10 of 15 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).
MSU held a 45-35 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 14 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Wolfpack had 15 assists and 18 turnovers.
Johnson had 23 points, four assists and three steals to pace MSU. Porter added 19 points, three assists and two steals. Robinson had a career-high 10 rebounds, while Bett had nine boards. James dished out a career-high five assists 13 minutes of playing time.
Kevorken paced the Wolfpack with 27 points and seven rebounds. Emily Burns had 11 points, while Amanda Johnson handed out eight assists.
MSU will open Southeastern Conference by hosting LSU at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Humphrey Coliseum.