RENO - Inexperienced Nevada showed plenty of heart against Cal, but in the end it was a lack of rebounding, some defensive mistakes and too much Ryan Anderson.
The Bears were a whopping plus-14 on the boards and Anderson scored a career-high 36 points to send Nevada to a 74-68 loss Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center before a partisan crowd of 9,126.
The loss snapped a 13-game home winning streak for the Pack, and was just the second loss in the last 27 games. Nevada is 2-3 for the first time since the 2003-04 season under Trent Johnson.
"Give Cal credit, they are a good basketball team," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "We made far too many mistakes to win a game. We didn't rebound well, we didn't shoot free throws well and we made defensive mistakes, but give Cal credit.
"We played hard, but you have to play hard and mistake free (to win). We're a young team. I'm not worried where we are after five games, but are we getting better every week and getting to conference play with a chance to be a good team."
One thing Fox left out was Cal's defense, which limited the Pack to just 30 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes. Marcelus Kemp, who led Nevada with 26 points, scored 21 in the first half. He was just 1-for-11 from the floor in the second half.
"We were more conscious of Marcelus," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "We didn't change anything, we just did it better. We played tremendous help defense in the second half.
"This was a big win for us. They play extremely well here. It was a quality win against a good opponent."
And, it was a win that can be chalked up to Anderson's effectiveness as a scorer and rebounder. He knocked down 14 of 23 field-goal attempts and made several key plays in the second half.
Each time Nevada would get within striking distance, Anderson & Co. had an answer.
With the score tied at 44 with 15:31 left, Anderson scored seven quick points to make it 51-44 lead. He drove the lane, scored on a putback and then scored on a three-point play.
When Nevada closed to 56-52 on a 3-pointer by JaVale McGee from the top of the key, Anderson came right back and scored on a layup. Anderson drained a 3-pointer from the right side to make it 63-54 with 5:42 left, and after a Brandon Fields field goal and a McGee dunk made it 63-59, Anderson rebounded the second of two misses by Jerome Randle and scored on a putback to get the lead to 65-59.
Nevada closed to three, but clutch free throws by Anderson and Patrick Christopher (16 points) made the Pack a loser for the second straight game.
"My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball," Anderson said. "We had a good game plan to run and spread the floor. We took a lot of pump fakes. They're a long, athletic team that likes to jump at the ball."
"He's a very good player; a versatile player," Fox said. "He's a much improved player from last year."
Anderson had 16 of his points in the first half. The Bears hit 12 of their first 18 shots from the floor and built a 36-22 lead with 5:42 remaining until intermission.
Behind Brandon Fields (15 points), McGee (19 points) and Kemp (26), Nevada stormed back with a 16-4 surge to pull to within 40-38.
The Bears, who shot 50 percent in the first half, went 1-for-5 and turned the ball over three other times in that stretch.
Fields started the surge with a 3-ball and David Ellis followed with a nice hook from the key to make it 36-27 with 4:46 left. Cal missed its next two shots from the field, and Braun wanted a goaltending call on the second.
On the ensuing possession, Fields split two defenders to make it 36-29. Anderson knocked down two free throws for a 38-29 lead, but Kemp nailed a trey from the top of the key with 2:17 left to trim Cal's lead to six. Anderson scored on a hook, but McGee's rim-rattling dunk, another 3-ball by Kemp and a Kemp free throw finished off a 9-2 half-ending run for a 40-38 halftime deficit.
"We dug ourselves a 14-point hole," Fox said. "To get even was a positive, but we spent so much energy to dig out. We didn't have enough juice maybe. It was a dogfight for a long time, but we made just too many mistakes."
The game was tied at 40, 42 and 44 before Anderson scored 14 of Cal's next 19 points.