RENO - On a team with Jaycee Carroll and Nate Harris, you wouldn't expect Durrall Peterson to make the crucial, game-turning shot.
Peterson broke Nevada's heart when he knocked down two key 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and then made four straight foul shots in the final minute to propel Utah State to a 59-53 win over the Wolf Pack Monday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The loss was Nevada's (13-5, 3-3) first at home this year after eight straight wins, and the Aggies (13-4, 5-2) won their fourth straight Western Athletic Conference game and ninth in their last 10 overall.
Nevada had trailed nearly the entire game, but an 8-0 run in a span of 80 seconds enabled the Pack to climb to within 42-39 with 4:33 remaining. Nick Fazekas who scored a hard-earned 16 points on 8-for-21 shooting, had two scores in the surge and Kyle Shiloh added a 3-pointer.
Up stepped Peterson, who found the range when it was needed.
The two 3-pointers made it 48-41 lead. A 3-pointer by Shiloh made it 49-44 with 1:05 left. Utah State went on an 8-2 roll to make it 57-48. A 3-pointer by Mo Charlo cut the lead down to six, 57-51, and the Pack never got any closer.
In the end, Nevada was beaten by a guy that was averaging just a little over seven points a game.
"Durrall never lacks for confidence," said teammate Nate Harris, who led all scorers with 21 points. "He's a confident guy. We don't worry when the ball is in his hands. He came up huge."
So did Harris, who registered his 18th double-double, the longest active streak in the WAC.
"He has a knack to score," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "We didn't do a good job for the first 35 minutes.
"We got it down to three, but we couldn't get a stop. We played hard. We didn't play well at times. We defended fairly well. They shot 35 percent and we shot 33. That was the difference. We didn't make enough shots."
Especially Fazekas, who had probably his worst shooting night of the season. He missed several from close range that he normally puts down.
"We tried to make him catch the ball 17 or 18 feet away from the basket," Harris said. "We tried to be physical; push him a little bit."
Fazekas said Utah State's physicalness didn't bother him. Fazekas was probably bothered more by the fact that the officials didn't call many fouls in the paint.
"I wasn't frustrated at all," Fazekas said. "I just couldn't get the ball to go down. The physical play didn't bother me. I see it every night. It happens to the best of us. As a team, it's our most disappointing game."
Indeed. It was an uphill struggle for the final 35 minutes, as Nevada faced an uphill struggle to catch the Aggies.
The first half, at least after the first five minutes, was an ugly one for the Pack, which hit 8 of 27 from the field. Quite simply, Nevada didn't cope with Utah State's physical play in the paint.
Nevada started fast, scoring the game's first seven points. The Aggies, who missed their first six shots, went on an 16-2 run in a span of 4 minutes 17 seconds.
Cass Matheus started the surge with a free throw and was credited with a tip-in on the ensuing possession. The ball actually went in off Fazekas. A 3-pointer by David Pak, a 3-pointer by Carroll and a tip-in by Harris completed an 11-0 run.
Marcelus Kemp ended the Pack's four-minute drought with a layup, but the Aggies responded with five straight points on a three-point play by Harris and a transition dunk by Chaz Spicer for a 16-9 lead.
Nevada, which shot a putrid 29.6 from the floor, trimmed the lead to 21-17 on two free throws by Chad Bell and a post-up layup off the glass by Fazekas. The Aggies responded with an 8-2 run for a 10-point halftime lead.
The Pack went 0 for 5 from the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes, and that was critical.
"We were getting some good looks," Shiloh said. "Seemed like every shot I threw up was short. I was a little fatigued."
Nevada trimmed Utah State's lead to 29-23 early in the second half, but slam dunks by Matheus and Harris got the lead back up to double digits, 33-23. Matheus' slam came on a putback. Utah State outrebounded Nevada 42-36, as Matheus pulled down 13 and Harris 12.
The lead stayed between eight and 10 for the next 11 minutes until Nevada made its final run of the night, only to come up short.