By DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal News Service
REN0 -- The proverbial monkey is finally off University of Nevada's back.
After seven straight Western Athletic Conference basketball losses to Tulsa dating back to the 2000-01 season, the Wolf Pack used a 50-27 rebounding edge to knock off the Golden Hurricane 80-71 before a crowd of 6,830 at Lawlor Events Center Thursday night.
The win was Nevada's eighth straight at home, tying the mark set in the 1978-79 season, and put the Wolf Pack at 4-3. Rice, Nevada's opponent on Saturday leads the WAC with a 5-1 record.
"We finally got them," said senior guard Garry Hill-Thomas, who scored 10 points. "We don't have much time to celebrate. We're still trying to get first place. We've got some work to do. They're a good team. We knew they weren't going to lay down. They're a great team and they kept coming at us."
Indeed. Thanks to the inside play of Anthony Price, who had 12 of his 18 points in the second half, Tulsa nearly wiped out Nevada's 17-point first half lead, and four different times were within two points of the Wolf Pack in the second half.
"Price is much improved," Nevada coach Trent Johnson said. "I thought he hurt us. He posted Nick (Fazekas) down deep and Sean (Paul) down deep and scored."
Leading 58-56 with 9:29 left in the game, Nevada quickly put together an 11-2 run to open up a 69-58 lead with 5:58 left, taking control of the game for good.
And, rebounding played a big role in the surge. Kirk Snyder (25 points, 10 rebounds) scored on a putback and then knocked down two free throws for a 65-56 lead. After a layup by Seneca Collins, Nick Fazekas (19 points, 11rebounds) threw down another offensive rebound and Snyder sank two more foul shots to complete the surge.
Johnson was obviously pleased with the rebounding, as Nevada outscored Tulsa 31-8 on second-chance opportunities. He also was impressed with his team's composure down the stretch.
"I thought we kept our poise and executed offensively," Johnson said. "I guess by numbers-wise (best rebounding game) it was. I don't know what we've done every game. When you outrebound a team of that caliber 51-27 that's pretty good. I thought the effort and intensity was good. This was a good win for us.
"Offensively, we're starting to get more guys involved. Garry has been very efficient. Todd (Okeson) has been shooting well. We're getting good offensive performances." Okeson played 36 minutes and finished with 11 points, as freshman point guard Kyle Shiloh continues to struggle.
The first half was one of surges.
Tulsa opened with a 7-0 run thanks to five points by Collins and a fadeaway by Price, but Nevada bounced back with a 27-3 run to take a 27-10 lead with 9:07 left. Snyder had nine and Paul six in that barrage.
Tulsa, despite being out-rebounded 28-12 in the first half, fought back with a 20-5 run to close to 32-30 with 1:06 left. Nevada scored the last four points of the half to take a six-point lead into the locker room, and Fazekas admitted the Wolf Pack were a bit frustrated.
"A little bit," he said. "We were a little frustrated in the locker room. It comes down to defense. If we defend, we can beat anybody. We have to come out and defend every night."
And, the Wolf Pack have to learn to play with the same intensity on the road as they do at home if they have any visions of winning the WAC championship and going to the NCAA tournament.
"This (Lawlor) is a hard place to play," Okeson said. "In all conferences, it's hard to win on the road. We're having trouble (on the road) like everybody else."
Those troubles need to end quickly.
Notes: Fazekas posted his third double-double of the season. He's averaging around 14 points a game since taking over the starting job from Paul. The freshman also leads the WAC in blocked shots, averaging 1.7 a game ... Nevada is 10-0 when leading at the half ... Tulsa is 1-7 on the road this season.