NEW ORLEANS - Jason Wilke grew up a Nevada basketball fan and, even though he now lives in Florida, hasn't forgotten his hometown team.
Wilke, wearing a Jeff Rowe football jersey, was happy to see Nevada escape with a 77-71 first-round win over Creighton on Friday afternoon, earning the right to play second-seeded Memphis on Sunday afternoon.
"I remember the old days at Lawlor when there was hardly anybody there," Wilke said. "It's really been great to see where the program has gone. It's really been something.
"Hopefully they can win Sunday, and them and Florida can go on to the Sweet 16. (Nick) Fazekas looked a little sleepy. I was trying to wake him up by yelling at him."
Wilke originally decided to come when he learned the Gators would be playing in New Orleans.
"It wasn't until the end (of the selection show) that they mentioned Nevada," Wilke said. "When I heard Nevada got in, I called my dad and told him to buy me Nevada stuff at the bookstore. They were out of basketball jerseys, so he sent me this."
Wilke and the rest of the approximately 550 fans were up and down the entire game, which saw 12 lead changes and 10 ties.
It didn't look good for Nevada late in the first half when Creighton went on a 12-5 run to take a 32-31 halftime lead.
Harvey Whittemore, a well-known lobbyist from Reno and longtime season-ticketholder, analyzed the game during halftime.
"They struggled with their match-up zone," Whittemore said. "I don't think they understand how to penetrate it.
"They had a chance to build on the lead and they had two or three trips where they didn't do anything. If they can play Nevada basketball, they will be fine."
Josh Newman, who coached at Nevada for a few years, didn't appear to be too worried as he watched some of his former players perform.
"I think they're fine," Newman said. "You can tell they are experienced and been here before. They are a veteran group."
Whittemore proved to be a prophet. Nevada did play better in the second half and overtime to escape with a win, its fourth NCAA win in school history.
If you were to ask Carson City's Ed Evans, watching from Sparky's Sports Bar and Grill in South Carson, it was because he and his friends "used the Jedi Think on them."
Evans has been watching the Pack since only 400 people could fit in the Virginia Street Gym.
"I watched Alex Boyd," he said.
Boyd held the school's second place all-time scoring record, until the 2006 season when Nick Fazekas moved past him in the Pack's 68-55 win over Fresno.
Victor Peters, who for the third year chose to watch Nevada from Sparky's with Evans, said the Pack came back from three easy layups."
"We are ecstatic about UNR. We didn't think they would pull it out. Kemp is the man."
Longtime Nevada fan Brent Olson, of Minden, said the Pack has a lot of work ahead of them.
"Sunday's going to be a tough game. They are going to have to play a lot better to beat the next round opponent. I think they can do it. They have a lot of talent."
Olson said Nevada won't be able to make 19 turnovers and win on Sunday.
"They were sloppy and the other team scored on them, and that really hurt."
What's Next for the Wolf Pack
WHAT: Second-round matchup in the South Regional game of the NCAA Tournament
WHO: Nevada (29-4) versus second-seeded Memphis (31-3)
WHEN: 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the New Orleans Arena
WHERE: Game broadcast live on KTVN channel 2
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281. City Editor Kelli Du Fresne contributed to this report.