Ellis has career night to lead Pack past Bulldogs

RUSTON, La. - The spark to Nevada's third straight road win came from an unlikely source.

Senior David Ellis, a career back-up, scored a career-high 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field to lead the Wolf Pack to an 83-70 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday before a crowd of 1,467 at the Thomas Assembly Center.

Nevada, which has won 24 of its last 34 road games, moved to 4-2 in Western Athletic Conference play and 12-7 overall. Tech dropped to 0-6, 3-15.

Nevada's bench contributed a season-best 31 points and 18 rebounds. Ray Kraemer contributed a career-best seven points and a career-high three rebounds.

"The ball felt good in my hands," said Ellis, who scored from inside and outside against the undersized Bulldogs. "I was open because of my teammates. The guys on the bench always try to provide a spark. I was just looking to help us pick it up a bit."

Ellis was indeed a breath of fresh air as Nevada's big men got off to a slow start. It was probably the type of game Nevada coach Mark Fox envisioned Ellis having when he was recruited out of Capital Christian.

"Ellis played well," Fox said. "He's experienced, and handles the road a lot better than the young guys. The first half he played very, very well. David has had to play behind some very talented players (Nick Fazekas, JaVale McGee, Kevinn Pinkney). He's taken a role and made the most of it."

Ellis scored his first basket less than three minutes into the game. Fox was displeased with the play of JaVale McGee and Demarshay Johnson and moved Ellis into the game quickly.

"I subbed a lot," Fox said. "I pushed people in and out until we started to play stronger. We had some difficulty defending early. We ended up having to play a lot of zone. The zone enabled us to play to play two big guys."

"We had to bring our own energy," freshman Armon Johnson said. "It was kind of tough. We got it going a lot better in the second half."

Adrian Rogers scored five early points and J.C. Clark scored nine, as Tech grabbed a 23-22 lead with 7 minutes, 43 seconds left in the half. That's when Nevada's bench came to the forefront.

"The ball just wasn't falling for us (early)," said McGee, who scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds. "We worked hard and did a much better job in the second half."

McGee's free throw tied the game at 23. Kraemer got the rebound on the second missed free throw and scored on a layup 19 seconds later. The Bulldogs missed its next two shots, and Ellis scored baskets each time to extend Nevada's lead to 29-23.

Brandon Mims ended the 7-0 run with a basket, but two baskets by Ellis and one by Kraemer - plus an Armon Johnson free throw - made it 36-29 with 2:28 left. Tech cut the deficit to 36-31, but a Marcelus Kemp layup, two free throws by Demarshay Johnson and a putback by rarely used Richie Phillips gave Nevada an 11-point bulge, 42-31, at the half.

Nineteen of those points came from Ellis, Kraemer and Phillips. The trio combined to go 8-for-8 from the field.

Louisiana Tech shot just 32 percent in the first half, going 9-for-28. The Bulldogs were just too impatient, especially after Nevada went to the 2-3 zone.

"I thought our game plan that we came out early with was good and we had good spacing," Bulldogs coach Kerry Rupp said. "They got into their zone and we didn't penetrate. We thought we could stretch it. We settled (at times) and shot the ball too quickly."

A bank shot by Drew Washington and a putback by Rogers trimmed the Nevada lead to 42-35 early in the second half, but the Pack responded with a 14-2 run to extend its lead to 56-37. It was the first of two big surges for the Pack in the final 20 minutes.

McGee was in the thick of the first outburst, scoring seven points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Demarshay Johnson had five points, scoring on a bank shot and converting a three-point play.

"We got some baskets off our defense," Fox said. "JaVale played well to start the second half."

Tech scored seven of the next nine points, but Nevada responded again, this time with a 15-5 run to stretch the lead to 23 points (72-49), its biggest margin of the night.

Armon Johnson (12 points) hit a couple of shots in traffic, McGee scored twice, Ellis once, Demarshay Johnson once and Kemp (11 points) drained a 3-pointer.

The Bulldogs managed just one field goal over an eight-minute stretch in the second half, which made it even tougher to come back.

"When they got in their offense with their big guys, they were successful," Rupp said. "They did a good job of moving the ball around. If you let a good team run their stuff, it will hurt you."

Tech never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way, thanks in part to Nevada's 64-percent shooting percentage in the second half.

"They wore us down with their size," Rupp said. "Their length slowed us down, and these are things we need to continue to work on."

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

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