RENO - Nick Fazekas is closer to getting back to his old self, and that's bad news for the rest of the Western Athletic Conference.
Fazekas scored 24 points and tied a career best with 18 rebounds in 15th-ranked Nevada's 79-62 win over Utah State before a sellout crowd at Lawlor Events Center Saturday night.
Nevada improved to 19-2 overall and 7-1 in conference play. The Aggies, who had their five-game winning streak snapped, dropped to 15-6 overall and 4-3 in conference.
"He's back to the old Nick Fazekas," Nevada coach Mark Fox said after the win. "He's starting to get healthy. He's still in the brace and that limits his mobility. Hopefully, he's close to getting out of that.
"I was pleased with our offense. I thought we showed good patience. We shot a very good percentage in the first half. We had a little lull in the second half, but give Utah State credit for a good push."
Fazekas, in his fourth game back since spraining his left ankle against Boise State, moved up a couple of notches on the Western Athletic Conference all-time lists with 2,195 points and 1,123 rebounds. He passed Air Force's Raymond Dudley (2,178) in scoring and Rice's Michael Harris (1,111) in rebounding.
"I'd say so," Fazekas said when asked if this was the most comfortable he's felt since his ankle injury. "Coach (Kwanza) Johnson told me it looked like I had a little pop in my step. That gave me confidence.
"I haven't had much lift the last two or three games. I haven't been able to rebound outside my area. I was letting the ball come to me."
After back-to-back slow starts against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, Nevada came out much more energized. The Pack knocked down 59 percent from the field, connecting on 16-of-27 from the floor.
"It makes you feel good for our kids to come to the game and see 'sold out' flashing on the board (outside the arena)," Fox said. "The fans showed up here tonight and brought energy. Our kids fed on it."
Two nice runs helped Nevada to a 43-30 lead at the intermission.
Leading just 12-10, the Pack went on a 7-2 run to increase its lead to 19-12 with 12 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half.
Fazekas scored all seven points in the run, knocking down three of four from the line, hitting from the right baseline and then converting an easy layup off a nice feed by Ramon Sessions, who finished with seven assists and 13 points.
Utah State cut the lead to 21-16, but Nevada went on a 12-2 run to open up a 33-18 lead with 4:29 remaining. The scoring was well spaced in the run, too.
Lyndale Burleson, Sessions and Tyrone Hanson all knocked down 3-pointers, while Kyle Shiloh (10 points) hit a jump shot in the paint. Fazekas finished the surge with a single free throw.
A rare 3-pointer by Kris Clark cut Nevada's lead to 41-30 with 18.7 seconds left in the half, but freshman Brandon Fields beat the buzzer with a layup to get the lead to 43-30 at the half.
The Aggies shot just 39 percent from the floor, and the Pack limited high-scoring Jaycee Carroll to one 3-pointer in six field goal attempts thanks to the defensive efforts of Shiloh and Burleson.
It's tough to hold down a guard of Carroll's caliber the entire game, and the Aggies' standout went on a scoring spree with 11 straight Utah State points in less than five minutes to pull the Aggies to within 57-50 with 10:45 left in the game. He finished with 15 points.
"I just started to attack the basket," said Carroll, explaining his second-half strategy. "In the first half I settled for jump shots."
Utah State never got any closer the rest of the way, as Nevada stepped up the defensive pressure the rest of the way.
Fox called a timeout with 9:33 left, and he ripped into his team. Whatever he said worked, because Utah State scored just three field goals the rest of the way and only 10 points total.
"We got a little comfortable on defense," Fox said. "We played much better defensively (the rest of the game)."
Shortly after the timeout, Nevada went on a 15-4 to build a 74-56 lead with 5:19 remaining.
Fazekas scored from the right baseline, and after Durrall Peterson sank a free throw, Shiloh drilled a 3-pointer to make it 64-53. Nick Hammer scored a three to make it 64-56, but a 3-pointer by Denis Ikovlev, a driving layup by Sessions, another 3-pointer by Shiloh and two free throws by Ikovlev capped the run.
"We hit a tough patch where we had a couple of bad possessions and missed defensive assignments," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "I thought the game was over at that point (after the Nevada run).
"Their size wore us down. We had a tough time scoring on their defense because of their size. They are good defensively and play very physical. They always put their hands on the ball."