BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO - Marcelus Kemp missed the post-game press conference because of an upset stomach.
Fresno State wishes that malady had struck the Wolf Pack star much sooner; like before the game.
Kemp poured in 28 points in 21 minutes to spark Nevada to a 79-67 win Thursday night before a crowd of 7,317 at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada, thanks to its third straight win and fifth in its last six games, improved to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in Western Athletic Conference play. Fresno State dropped to 10-12 overall and 3-5 in conference.
Kemp, who was 10-for-17 from the field, moved up to fourth on Nevada's all-time scoring list, passing both Pete Padgett (1972-76) and Terrance Green (1999-2003). Kemp now has 1,667 points. He is currently 65 points behind Alex Boyd, who scored 1,731 points in 73 games.
"It's great to move up in the record book, and it's a great accomplishment for me," Kemp said. "I'm more excited about the win and the championships we've been able to get."
That's vintage Kemp, according to Nevada coach Mark Fox.
"He's accomplished a great deal," Fox said. "He's not concerned about scoring. He's concerned about winning."
Added Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland, "Marcelus Kemp is by far the best player in this league. He's pretty special."
And, with three straight victories, Nevada has a full head of steam heading into Saturday night's showdown at first-place Utah State, which is 5-1.
"Winning two games on the road I think that gave us a lot of confidence as a team," Brandon Fields said. "We have a lot of confidence in each other."
Nevada shot 51 percent for the game, the third straight time it has eclipsed the 50 percent mark.
"We have matured offensively," Fox said. "Everybody understands how we're trying to play, and we're playing with more intelligence. We're playing together.
"We're getting better, and we're getting better each game."
The Pack was at its best in the first 20 minutes. Nevada played one of its strongest halves of the season in building a 44-28 advantage.
The Pack got plenty of stops, holding Fresno State to 39 percent from the floor, while draining 55 percent of its field goal attempts.
"We played solid at both ends," Fox said of the Pack's first-half effort. "We didn't rebound it as well as I would have liked, but we had the advantage at the half. We played well. Marcelus got us off to a great start in the first half before he got in foul trouble, and the bench really produced in that first half."
Kevin Bell and Eddie Miller were only a combined 4-for-18 from the field in the first 20 minutes, and if those two aren't going well, the Bulldogs will struggle from the floor.
"He (Miller) is a good shooter," said Fields, who shadowed the Fresno State star. "I knew I had to crowd him."
Miller finished with 17 points, but he worked hard for them, and he hurried many shots because of the effort by Fields and Lyndale Burleson.
Nevada, led by Kemp, went on a 17-2 run in a span of 5 minute 10 seconds to take a 17-8 lead.
Fields started the surge with a short bank shot, and then it was all Kemp.
The Pack senior scored on a lay-up, drained a triple from the top of the key and then knocked down two free throws. Miller went 0-for-2 on the next possession and Ray Kraemer buried a 3-pointer from the right side.
Tyson Parker ended the Fresno drought with 12:43 left, but a three-point play by Kemp and two free throws by Armon Johnson stretched the lead to 22-10 with 11:14 remaining.
Kemp went to the bench with his third foul right before Johnson's score, but Nevada managed to maintain its double-digit lead for most of the half.
"When Marcelus got two fouls, everybody picked it up for Marcelus," said Fields, who scored 17 and breezed by the Fresno State defense on two quick drives to the basket shortly after Kemp left the floor. Fields had 11 points in the first half to complement Kemp, who had 12.
"The team is more than just me," Kemp said. "We have a lot of guys who can make plays. I'm proud of my teammates."
Kemp started the second half the same way he started the game - on fire.
He scored 12 of the Wolf Pack's first 15 points to start the second half, boosting Nevada's lead to 59-41 with 13:44 remaining. Kemp scored on a couple of nice drives to the basket, and then drained two long-range jump shots.
The game took a sudden turn the wrong way moments later.
The Bulldogs' Hector Hernandez misfired, and thought he was fouled. As Nevada brought the ball upcourt, Hernandez and Nevada's Matt LaGrone started jawing, and LaGrone pushed Hernandez. Hernandez was given a technical foul while LaGrone was given two and ejected.
That exchange appeared to fire up the Bulldogs, who went on a 15-6 run to cut the deficit to eight, 66-58, with 6:54 left. In one stretch, Fresno State scored nine straight points, five by Bell, who led Fresno State with 22 points.
"We weren't playing too fast (in that span)," Fox said. "We had a young seven minutes. You notice I didn't call a timeout."
It was Kemp, who got the Pack headed in the right direction. He knocked down two free throws and then banked in a nice fadeaway jump shot. Richie Phillips scored on a putback to get the lead back up to 14 with 4:02 remaining.
"This is the best team we've played," Cleveland said. "They're really good, long and athletic. They have nine guys that can play. This is the best defensive team we've played."