RENO - Nevada followed the same script it usedTuesday night against UC Irvine, and it worked to perfection.
The Wolf Pack fell victim to some 3-point success by Santa Clara in the first half, and then used two big second-half surges to grab a 67-54 win before 8,144 fans Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada, 2-1, has won 13 straight at home and 25 of its last 26. Santa Clara dropped to 2-1.
"It was a great win," said senior guard Marcelus Kemp, who led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the floor. "It's always great to play in front of the home crowd.
"We played well as a team. We're coming along. We're starting to understand the plays and the offense."
Certainly coach Mark Fox was happy with the win, but he knows there is plenty of work to be done, and his young group needs to take positive steps forward.
"I wasn't happy with our defense or rebounding," said Fox, whose team was outrebounded for the second time in three games. "We didn't play well with the lead, but we responded so that's a positive. We're going to be a work in progress offensively for a while.
"This team needs challenges, experience and adversity. We were able to see all that tonight."
In the end, it was Nevada that turned up the pressure twice in the second half, and it was the Broncos who wilted.
"I'm disappointed with the outcome of the game, but I'm more disappointed with us, " Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "Any time you turn the ball over more times than assists (21-19) and field goals (actually 21-21) you make it's going to be a problem on the road.
"We lost our composure a bit. It was a physical game. I felt we lost focus on defense with a couple of charges not going our way."
Nevada, leading 26-25 after the first 20 minutes, opened the half with a 15-2 run in the first 6 1/2 minutes, as Kemp knocked in three field goals for seven points and Brandon Fields (13 points) threw in a couple of floaters in the lane.
Santa Clara responded with an 11-2 run of its own, cutting the deficit to 43-38. Mammoth 305-pound John Bryant (20 points) scored six of those points and Calvin Johnson (14 points) drained a 3-pointer.
Leading 50-44 with 6:21 remaining, Nevada scored 12 straight to open up a commanding 18-point lead, 62-44. Nevada went 15 for 24 from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
Fields drained a floater, and then Bryant was issued a technical foul as he was heading upcourt after a miss. That turned out to be a five-point play, as Kemp hit two ensuing free throws and Fields knocked in a 3-pointer. Armon Johnson (13 points) drained two free throws, and after a Santa Clara turnover, Malik Cooke threw in three straight free throws after being fouled beyond the arc.
Fields scored eight points in the two second-half surges, and went 5-for-6 in the second half en route to his 13-point effort.
"I felt like in the first half I was forcing it," Fields said. "In the second half, I stayed within the offense and let it come to me."
"Brandon was able to penetrate because that's what the defense gave him," Fox said. "He played a lot more mature in the second half."
The first half also was one of surges.
Nevada used two 6-0 surges to build leads of seven and eight (15-8 and 23-15), respectively before settling for a 26-25 halftime lead.
Santa Clara, which used a three-guard line-up most of the first 20 minutes managed to slice the lead to one at the half with a 10-3 run thanks to 3-point field goals by Zac Tiedeman and Mitch Henke, who also had a layup in that span.
"They shot the ball so well." Fox said of the Broncos. "I think 15 of their 25 points in the first half were on 3-point field goals.
"I thought we played with good energy the first 10 minutes. I didn't like the last 10 minutes. We were too emotional offensively. We didn't defend very well. Because we're so young, we made mistakes at both ends of the floor. We lost our edge."
Nevada, which shot 46 percent from the floor, scored only one field goal in the final 6:07. Other than Kemp who went 3-for-7 and Demarshay Johnson who went 4-for-5, the rest of the team went a combined 4-for-12.
"I'm doing my best to let the game come to me," Demarshay Johnson said. "It was tough for me in the second half. I tried to play good defense and rebound the ball."
Demarshay Johnson went scoreless in the second half, but Kemp and Fields more than made up for his lack of offensive production by combing for 27 points.