No letdown for Wolf Pack against Idaho

RENO - If Mark Fox was worried about his team letting down following its huge win over Gonzaga last weekend, he shouldn't have been.

Nevada shot 57 percent from the field and out-rebounded Idaho by a whopping 45-26 en route to an easy 81-55 victory in its Western Athletic Conference opener before a crowd of 9,081 Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.

The 15th-ranked Wolf Pack, who are in an eight-day, four-game stretch, improved to 13-1 overall, while Idaho dropped to 2-12.

"We played well," said All-American forward Nick Fazekas, who scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "We played Idaho tough, and this was a good way to start conference play. We were wanting to play. We weren't worried about coming out flat."

Nevada was solid at both ends of the floor, but the defense held Idaho to 31 percent from the floor, made nine steals and blocked seven shots.

"I'm pleased we won the basketball game," Fox said. "I think we came out fairly strong in the first half, and we were able to build a large lead.

"Idaho was a difficult match-up. Keoni Watson is a really good player. We didn't do a good job on him, but we were able to slow some other guys down."

Even more important to Fox was that Nevada was able to rest its starters, and keep its legs fresh for Monday's home game against Boise State. Ramon Sessions only played 19 minutes, Kemp and Fazekas 20, Denis Ikovlev 21 and Kyle Shiloh 22.

"I was really pleased with that, knowing we have four games in eight days that we were able to get some guys on the floor that haven't been getting significant minutes, and for them to play well," Fox said. "It was the first time the new guys were able to play together and they did some nice things. They made some mistakes, but they will learn from that."

Nevada, which shot 59 percent from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half, used a rash of 3-point field goals to take control of the game.

Leading 21-15, Ikovlev, Sessions and Shiloh scored 3-point field goals on consecutive trips down the floor to extend the lead to 30-17 with 8:35 left in the first half.

"I took a timeout when it was 14-19, and I talked about the urgency to have some possessions that weren't quick," Idaho coach George Pfeifer said. "We chose not to do that.

"With their talent and experience we'll have difficulty defending in the half court. We can't allow them to come down and score in transition. We needed to tempo the game better. Sometimes when you tempo the game, the basket doesn't stretch out quite as big."

Darin Nagle knocked in a 3-pointer from the left corner, but the Wolf Pack stormed back with nine straight points for a 39-20 lead. Fazekas, who was doubled teamed most of the half as Idaho sagged deep into the key, started the barrage with a 3-pointer from the left side, and then got a stickback on Brandon Fields' miss.

"We definitely felt we could out-rebound Idaho," said Fazekas, who had five putbacks for baskets. "We emphasize rebounding everyday. We went out and did that. It's something we try to do each night. We definitely did dominate the glass."

Kemp, who scored 14 in the first 20 minutes and finished with 22, scored on a jump shot and Sessions finished the flurry with a lay-up off an inbound pass.

Trevor Morris ended the drought, but a jump shot by Tyrone Hanson and a lay-up plus steal by Shiloh gave Nevada its biggest lead of the half, 43-22, capping a 13-2 run.

Idaho scored six straight points, trimming the deficit to 43-28, but a three-point play by Kemp on a nice spin move to the hoop boosted the lead to 46-28 at halftime.

Nevada put the game out of reach in the first six-plus minutes of the second half, outscoring Idaho 20-7 to take a 66-35 lead. Fazekas and Kemp had eight apiece in that stretch. Idaho never got closer than 25 points the rest of the way.

Fazekas was an efficient 7-for-8 from the field on the night, and five of those were on putbacks. His only miss from the floor was on a 3-point attempt from the right side.

"They had two or three people (on him)," Fox said. "Nobody ever guards Nick Fazekas 1 on 1. That's why he has teammates around him."

And, his teammates made Idaho pay for its concentrated effort on Fazekas.

"We needed them to not shoot the ball well," Pfeifer said. "Because of what we were doing on defense, we needed them to miss from back there a little bit.

"They are far and away the best team we've played. I use the word solid a lot, and that's the ultimate compliment. They do everything well."

And, considering Idaho has played Washington, Washington State and Gonzaga, that's pretty high praise.

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