RENO -- For the second time in as many opportunities, the Reno Bighorns failed to follow up an impressive victory over the same opponent.
The Bighorns (4-3) blew out the Bakersfield Jam by 21 points Sunday, but had to use an 11-0 run to squeak past them Tuesday in a 98-90 win at the Reno Events Center in front of 1,538 fans.
"When you play someone twice and you win the first one by 20-something, 30 points because you've come out and done the things that it takes to win, you don't have the same approach for the second game," Bighorns coach Jay Humphries said. "And our guys' mentality was not focused on coming out, competing, putting the team away...
"For me, we lucked into a win. And for me as coach, I'm not satisfied at all."
The Jam (0-8) began to self-destruct in the fourth quarter as it racked up two technicals, a flagrant two and saw personal fouls catch up with it, limiting the team to just five players when the final buzzer rang.
But it was a non-call that awoke reigning D-League Player of the Week Desmon Farmer. The 6-foot-4 guard was hit in the back of the head after having his shot blocked and slammed his hand on the ground in frustration for the non-call.
After Marcus Hubbard hit a 4-foot jumper to get the Bighorns within 76-71 with 7 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the game, Farmer took over the offense. He went to work against the Jam's aggressiveness and went to the line for 10 free throw shots in the final minutes.
He finished the night 12-for-12 from the line with 27 points despite an off night from the field where he went 6-of-19.
"I come in here, I'm one of the top scorers in the league, I'm not expected to have an easy game every game," said Farmer, who is averaging 25 points a game. "They scouted me, they played me well. Hats off to them.
"I was able to get something off in that fourth quarter when it counted. When it counted I came through for my team and that's all that matters."
After a fight between the Bighorns' Cezary Trybanksi and the Jam's Rodney Webb that ended in ejection for both players, the Jam continued playing rough. Former Nevada forward Mo Charlo caught a punch to the groin from Amara Sy with 1:29 left to play. After Sy was ejected for the flagrant two foul, Charlo hit both shots from the free throw line to pull within 88-86.
Charlo, who finished with 19 points, hit another pair of free throws to tie the game at 88 with 1:03 remaining.
On the next possession, Russell Robinson drove down the right side of the court and turned toward the basket at the baseline where he sent up a 10-foot floater and picked up a foul. Jam coach Will Voigt was called for a technical foul for arguing the call. After Farmer hit the technical free throw, Robinson finished the three-point play and the Bighorns took the lead for good at 92-88.
The Bighorns, who beat the Jam 109-88 Sunday in Reno, were in a similar situation earlier this month when they defeated the Los Angeles D-Fenders 101-79 on the road on Dec. 4 and fell to them the next night in their home opener 117-11.
"They seemed to be making that push and they started getting bitter," said Farmer of the Jam. "They tried getting more physical and the refs caught it right before it got out of control. It's about whoever has the best mentally, that's who's going to come out with the game. They lost their mental, we stayed with it. That's why were able to pull it out."