RENO - Opportunities galore.
When Nevada players look at game film today, they will see they had a plethora of chances to beat Fresno State and take over sole possession of first-place in the Western Athletic Conference.
Instead, the Wolf Pack fell victim to the inside play of Mustafa Al-Sayyad and the three-point shooting of Ja'Vance Coleman and Donovan Morris, dropping its second conference game at Lawlor Events Center, 66-63, Saturday night before 11,784 fans, the largest crowd in school history.
The loss dropped Nevada to 14-5 overall and 7-2 in WAC play, and first-year head coach Mark Fox took stock of his young team.
"I feel like our team, and I include the coaches in that, have had too much success too early," he said. "We've gotten comfortable. You have to experience the taste of losing before you can become winners.
"I'm not surprised (by the three-point shooting). Give credit to Fresno State for making the shots. They outplayed us. They're a good team."
Nevada, led by Nick Fazekas (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Kevinn Pinckney (16 points, 8 rebounds), battled back from a 50-38 second-half deficit, and had a chance to win the game after Morris hit one of two free throws with 11.2 seconds left.
Nevada got the ball up court quickly and called timeout with 7.3 left.
Fazekas got the ball on the left side, working against Al-Sayyad. Under heavy pressure, he put up the shot too low on the glass. Coleman collared the rebound, was fouled by Seth Taylor, hit the first free throw, but missed the second. Fazekas got the rebound and launched an 80-foot one-handed throw that hit the backboard and rim before falling away.
"I had a good look," said Fazekas. "I should have made the shot. I didn't get fouled. It was a tough shot. I didn't get it high enough on the glass."
Fresno State coach Ray Lopes was asked about that final shot.
"I was happy the whistle didn't blow and that we got the rebound," said Lopes. "It was a great win. I think we defended the way we had to. Our defensive intensity was good. Nevada executes offensively very well."
It shouldn't have come down to that, however. Poor foul shooting and turnovers hindered the Wolf Pack in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
Trailing 59-52, both Mo Charlo and Fazekas (8 of 11) were only able to convert one of two foul shots. As a team, Nevada was 22 for 32.
"You can't win. You don't deserve to win, at the level we want to win at, when you can't make free throws," Fox said.
A putback by Fazekas and a single free throw cut the lead to 59-57 with 4:51 left. After the Bulldogs turned the ball over again, Jermaine Washington got a steal and was fouled going in for the layup. With a chance to tie the game, he only made one shot to make it 59-58.
Turnovers, and Nevada had 20, cost dearly on the next two possessions.
Pinkney was called for an illegal screen. After Al-Sayyad converted a free throw to make it 60-58, Ramon Sessions lost control of the ball and it went rolling backward and out of bounds. Sessions was knocked to the floor by Dominque White, but no foul was called. The official closest to the play originally awarded the ball to Nevada, but after conferring with his two partners, changed the call.
Al-Sayyad converted on the ensuing possession to make it 62-58. Nevada got it to 62-61 and 64-63. But couldn't get over the hump.
Al-Sayyad finished with 20 points, 14 in the second half. He was much too strong for Fazekas on the low block. All told, Fresno State shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half.
"He's a lot stronger than me," Fazekas admitted. "He got me deep a few times and made some big shots."
So did Coleman, who finished with 14. He hit a three-pointer and converted a three-point play to help the Bulldogs build their 12-point lead.
The opening half was a game of surges, and Nevada had the last one of the half, 11-0, to take a 28-27 lead at the intermission. Fresno State didn't score a basket in the final 4 minutes 57 seconds.
The Wolf Pack, who hit 46 percent from the floor in the opening half, blocked seven first-half shots and forced Fresno State into a 32.4 effort from the floor.
Fazekas, who had 12 first-half points, started the surge at the 4:57 mark. Pinkney hit a layup and then hit a putback to make it 27-23 with 3:15 left. After a Fresno State timeout, Sessions drove the lane and hit a lay-up to make it 27-25. Kyle Shiloh hit a free throw and Charlo scored on a putback at the buzzer to give Nevada its first lead in 15-plus minutes.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.