RENO — David Carter’s wish is that his Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team hit rock bottom Saturday night.
“I hope so,” the Wolf Pack coach said after a 65-55 loss to the Cal State Fullerton Titans in front of a crowd of 4,858 at Lawlor Events Center. “I know I’m at the bottom, trying to figure this out.”
The Wolf Pack, 2-7, has now lost seven games in a row for its longest slide since it lost eight in a row at the end of the 2012-13 season. The Pack also has gone six consecutive games without scoring as many as 60 points for the first time since the 1959-60 season. The Pack also has not scored as many as 70 points in a game this season. Its longest stretch to open a season since the 1959-60 team went its first 11 games without hitting 70.
“It’s not just offense,” Carter said. “It’s offense and defense.”
Carter, who wouldn’t allow any of his players to talk to the media Saturday night, is getting frustrated by his struggling team.
“It’s very disappointing, very embarrassing,” Carter said. “It’s embarrassing for this program. This program has a lot of pride. These players were recruited here to keep this program at a high level and right now that is not happening.”
Fullerton, now 4-7, ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Pack. The Titans, which had only beaten the Pack four times in 16 meetings in the 30-year rivalry before Saturday, were coming off a 73-59 loss at Sacramento State on Thursday.
“We were at home, we were on a losing streak but we came out with no energy,” said Carter of Saturday’s performance. “Guys were going through the motions with no energy.”
Fullerton jumped out to a 14-2 lead five minutes into the game as the Pack missed six of its first seven shots.
“We had no life at the start of the game,” Carter said.
The Pack, which has now lost 14 of its last 19 games dating back to last February, never enjoyed a lead against the Titans. But they did come close.
Point guard Marqueze Coleman converted a lay-up to cut the Titans lead to just 24-23 with 5:43 to go in the opening half. Coleman’s lay-up capped off a 9-0 Wolf Pack run that also featured a 3-pointer by Coleman, a dunk by A.J. West off a feed from D.J. Fenner and two free throws by Fenner.
Fullerton, of the Big West Conference, then went on 7-1 run to take a 31-24 lead with 1:51 to play in the half. Alex Harris, who finished with a game-high 22 points, had five points during the run.
The Wolf Pack, which trailed 33-26 at halftime, had just one successful field goal (a lay-up by Tyron Criswell with one second to play) in the last 5:24 of the half.
“We have to find people who have the courage to make plays,” Carter said. “I’m not blaming it all on the offense but we never really went on a long run. You have to score because that gives the whole team energy. When you are always playing defense that saps the energy right out of you.”
The Wolf Pack did slice Fullerton’s lead to just 35-33 on a lay-up by West with 16:17 to play. Perez hit a jumper 46 seconds later to pull the Pack within 37-35.
The Wolf Pack offense, though, dried up over the next eight minutes. Fullerton went on a game-changing 16-3 run to take a 53-38 lead with 7:54 to play. Harris had a dunk for a 41-35 lead and later drained a 3-pointer for a 48-38 advantage.
The closest the Pack would get over the final 11-plus minutes was eight. Perez connected on a 3-pointer to cut the Titans lead to 55-47 with five minutes to go and the senior guard hit another 3-pointer with 4:11 left to make it 58-50.
The Wolf Pack, though, scored just five points in the game’s final four minutes. Elijah Foster had a pair of free throws with 2:46 to play as the Pack once again pulled to within eight at 60-52. Perez hit a free throw to make it 64-53 with 1:09 left and Coleman had a lay-up with 13 seconds to play to make the score 65-55.
The Wolf Pack, which hasn’t had a player score more than 18 points in a game (Fenner against Adams State on Nov. 17) this year, was led by Fenner’s 12 points. Perez and Coleman, who was 5-of-14 from the floor, each had 11.
“We have to find five guys who will play together on the floor,” Carter said. “That’s my issue right now. I have to find five guys who will be on the same page the entire game.”
Carter praised 6-foot-9 freshman Robyn Missa’s production (six points, six rebounds in 25 minutes) off the bench. Starters Ronnie Stevens and West, the Pack’s two big men, combined for just eight points and five rebounds in 39 minutes.
“Robyn Missa played hard,” Carter said.
“He shot the ball with courage.”
The Wolf Pack will play at Pacific on Thursday.
“I didn’t think it would be like this, to be honest with you,” said Carter of the seven-game losing streak.