Nevada is shattered on the glass

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Nevada prides itself on its ability to rebound at both ends of the floor.

Quite simply, the 13th-ranked Wolf Pack got schooled on the glass, 45-32. Of New Mexico State's 45 rebounds, 23 came at the offensive end, a season high. It was the third time that Nevada has been outrebounded this season.

The 23 offensive rebounds led to 19 second-chance points, and that was the big difference as New Mexico State emerged with an 80-73 victory before a sellout crowd of 12,482 at the Pan American Center Saturday night.

The loss snapped Nevada's 10-game winning streak overall, and five-game Western Athletic Conference win streak. The loss also dropped Nevada into a first-place tie with New Mexico State.

"We got pounded on the glass and we got pounded at the free-throw line," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "We played zone, and it's hard to rebound well. Foul trouble forced us to stay in the zone."

"We beat a good basketball team," NMSU coach Reggie Theus said. "We beat a well-coached team. I let them (the Aggies) know the two areas that were most important were rebounding and defending the 3. Nevada usually out-rebounds people by five or six. If we took care of those, we had a chance to win the basketball game."

Nevada, which shot 50 percent from the floor, had two more field goals than the Aggies. New Mexico State, which sank its last 18 free throws, was 28 for 34 at the line. Nevada was 14 of 25.

Nine of those offensive rebounds went to Justin Hawkins, who scored a career-high 29 points, several coming on second-chance efforts. He finished with 11 rebounds.

"We just got outrebounded," Nevada All-American Nick Fazekas said. "We just didn't play well. We beat ourselves. It's hard to rebound in a zone. I didn't rebound well. He (Hawkins) is tough."

Hawkins said he was happy to see Nevada play so much zone.

"Personally, I like it," Hawkins said. "It created rebound opportunities for me. I was able to run free to the ball."

Nevada led for the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half, but a 7-0 run enabled the Aggies to take a 48-44 lead.

Fred Peete's 3-pointer from the right corner tied the game at 44, and then Martin Iti scored on a putback to give the Aggies a 46-44 lead. Elijah Ingram (14 points) knocked in two free throws after a Nevada turnover.

The Pack closed to 51-50 with 12:22 left, but the Aggies went on a 11-2 run over the next four minutes to take a 62-52 lead. Hawkins started the surge with a stickback, and he scored twice more in the paint. Tyrone Nelson (12 points) capped the surge with two free throws after Fazekas (21 points, 7 rebounds) picked up his fourth foul.

Fazekas, for the remainder of the game, went in and out depending on whether Nevada had the ball or not.

Nevada's Ramon Sessions missed a lay-up in that stretch, and Denis Ikovlev and Kyle Shiloh had critical turnovers against NMSU's pressure.

"The full-court press hurt us for a two-minute span," Fox said. "We didn't execute well against their pressure."

"I was trying to hit a home run (with my passes)," Sessions said. "Coach always talks about singles. We rushed things."

The Pack wasn't through, however.

A 9-2 run keyed by Sessions pulled Nevada to within 68-63 with 2:02 remaining. Two free throws by Iti got the lead back up to seven, 70-63. Free throws by Sessions and Brandon Fields plus a 3-pointer by Kemp, who was held to 14 points, cut the deficit to 74-70 with 33.3 left.

It was still a one-possession game with 25 seconds left after a Sessions 3-pointer, but Ingram and Hawkins combined to hit four free throws down the stretch to secure the win for the Aggies.

The crowd played a big role in the opening minutes of the game.

The Aggies hit nine of their first 17 shots to grab a 21-12 lead midway through the first half, and Hawkins scored 11 of those. Nevada went 5 1/2 minutes without a point before Shiloh ended the drought with a 3-pointer to make it 21-15.

"We settled down and got back into it," Fox said, acknowledging the slow start.

New Mexico State went back up by nine, 26-17, but the Pack went on an 13-2 run to take a 30-28 lead with 3:19 left.

Sessions hit two from the line to start the surge, and Fazekas, still not at 100 percent after his left ankle sprain, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 26-25. A jump shot by Shiloh gave Nevada its first lead of the game, 27-26. Sessions completed the run with a single free throw.

The game was tied at 28, 30 and 31 before Shiloh hit a 3-pointer with 40.6 seconds left to make it 34-31. Hawkins scored with 19 seconds left to make it a one-point lead at the half.

Nevada maintained that lead until Peete's 3-pointer tied the game and Iti's putback gave New Mexico State the lead for good.

Peete, who finished with 10 points, did a solid defensive job on Kemp, who went 5 for 13 from the field and finished with 14 points, five below his average.

"He shut down their No. 2 scorer (Kemp), " Theus said. "You are talking about a team that went on the road and won two games without Nick. He, Sessions and Shiloh carried them. Fred Peete did a great job."

So did the rest of the Aggies, who will be a team to be reckoned with, especially with the post-season tournament in Las Cruces.


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