Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack after its win over Fresno State |
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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack after its win over Fresno State

Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team after a 79-76 victory over Fresno State Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center . . .



The Bulldogs seemed intent on not letting Czyz destroy them again. Czyz, who was 10-of-12 from the field for 26 points on Jan. 3 at Fresno, played a complementary role on Thursday. He only took six shots and scored nine points. The junior also had three assists, three turnovers, an important nine rebounds and a steal. So he was active on the floor despite not looking for his shot. Czyz drained a 3-pointer for a 7-6 lead two minutes into the game and also put back an offensive rebound after a missed lay-up by Derrell Conner for a 19-15 lead. He scored four points in the first four minutes of the second half for a 48-42 lead but disappeared offensively after that. Pack coach David Carter also made sure to take Czyz off the floor in defensive situations in the final 90 seconds.


Hunt is without question the most valuable player in the Western Athletic Conference right now. He led the Wolf Pack with 24 points and 11 rebounds, making 9-of-11 shots. The 6-foot-8 undersized center plays his heart out every second he’s on the floor and he is the glue that keeps this young team together. He had three offensive rebounds and blocked a shot and did a nice job containing Fresno’s 6-foot-10 center Greg Smith. Smith, who doesn’t play with half the heart that Hunt plays with, scored an invisible 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Hunt took over the game completely when he scored nine consecutive points in a row as the Pack built a 35-24 lead in the first half.


Evans disappeared on Thursday, scoring three points without a rebound in 13 minutes. Carter only played him one minute in the second half, forcing his red-shirt freshman to watch the final 18:50 from the bench. Evans, though, did hit a 3-pointer for a 17-15 lead with 12 minutes to play. The rest of the night, though, he sat the bench for the most part as Carter gave his minutes to Patrick Nyeko and Jordan Burris.


The freshman had a mistake-filled evening, turning the ball over five times. It was the most turnovers he’s had in a game this season. Burton also missed three free throws in the final 49 seconds (he made seven in the same time frame), including one miss with five seconds to go that would have iced the victory. The 6-foot-1 point guard, though, scored 17 points and had three assists. You also have to hold Burton at least partially responsible for the way Fresno almost ran the Pack out of the gym at times. The Bulldogs, a team that has struggled on offense all season, had 24 fast-break points, the most for a Pack opponent this year. A lot of those points (19) came off the Pack’s 16 turnovers. Four of Burton’s turnovers led directly to eight quick Fresno points and the fifth resulted in a missed Fresno lay-up.


Story contributed 13 points, including a clutch 3-pointer from the left corner for a 51-42 lead with 15:40 to play. He also made a nice pass to Hunt for a dunk and a 53-42 lead a minute later and his 15-foot jumper put the Pack up 70-64 with 2:25 left. Story had just two points in eight minutes in the first half and came back to score 11 points in 18 minutes in the second half. He had just one rebound (no blocks or steals) and he turned the ball over twice and he missed three of his four 3-point tries. He’s now made at least one 3-pointer in 12 consecutive games and at least one in 20 of the Pack’s 21 games.


Jordan Burris had his best game as a Pack player. The freshman had nine clutch points in 19 minutes, earning himself a spot on the floor in the final six minutes. The 6-7 guard also had three rebounds and a steal . . . Jordan Finn had a very productive six minutes, scoring four points with a rebound. The 6-4 freshman was perfect from the field, making his only field goal and both of his free throws . . . Patrick Nyeko didn’t score in 16 minutes and had two assists and a rebound and a turnover . . . 6-10 freshman Devonte Elliott didn’t score and had two rebounds, a turnover and three fouls in 10 minutes . . . Derrell Conner and Kevin Panzer each missed all three of their shots and combined to go scoreless with just one rebound in 15 combined minutes (eight for Conner, seven for Panzer) . . . Marko Cukic, Adam Carp and Keith Fuetsch did not see any playing time . . . The bench had 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four turnovers combined in 66 minutes. But most of those numbers belonged to Burris and Finn. Nyeko, Elliott, Conner and Panzer combined to go 0-for-9 from the field with four rebounds, three turnovers and no points in 41 minutes.


The biggest challenge facing David Carter is figuring out which of his players come to play on any given night. Burton, Hunt, Story and Czyz are fairly consistent on a nightly basis and they will get about 60% of the minutes. But everyone else is a gift waiting to be unwrapped each night. The problem is that Carter never really knows what he’s going to find once he rips off all of the wrapping paper. That’s why the path from the Pack bench to the scorer’s table might need some new hardwood soon. Sometimes the experimenting works and sometimes it doesn’t. Against Fresno it worked as Burris came off the bench to give the starters a much-needed boost. What you have to love about Carter this year is that he forces his players to earn their minutes each and every night. Carter is conducting a Hoops 101 class this season and we all get to sit in on the class and take notes. That’s why even when this team wins, it’s rarely going to be pretty. Turnovers continue to haunt this young bunch and, well, that might just be something that can’t be corrected until next year. That’s not Carter’s fault. And it’s not really this team’s fault. It’s just the result of playing 10 guys who had little or no Division I experience before this season. A Pack coach hasn’t had to work this hard every night in about a decade and Carter is turning in one of the top performances by a Pack coach in recent memory.