Nevada uses zone defense to top Rams

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RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack dared the Colorado State Rams to shoot the ball Wednesday night.

“We knew coming into the game that they didn’t shoot the 3-pointer all that well,” Wolf Pack guard Deonte Burton said. “So we just sat back in the zone.”

The Wolf Pack sat back and watched the Rams shoot themselves out of the game. The Rams (12-9, 3-5) missed 15 of their 18 3-pointers as the Wolf Pack came away with 76-67 Mountain West victory at Lawlor Events Center.

“Our defense played very well in the second half,” said Pack coach David Carter, whose team improved to 11-10 overall and 6-2 in the Mountain West. “I was real proud of our effort.”

Colorado State entered the game ranked 10th in 3-point shooting and ninth from the floor overall in the 11-team Mountain West. The Rams shot just 37 per cent (22-of-60) from the floor and 17 per cent (3-of-18) from 3-point range. Daniel Bejarano missed eight of 10 3-pointers.

“Our defense kept us in the game,” Carter said.

It didn’t start out that way. The Rams missed their first four shots of the game but then converted 11 of their next 16 shots. Seven of the baskets during that stretch came on lay-ups or dunks as the Rams seemingly walked to the basket time after time.

“Their guards were penetrating and getting easy baskets,” Wolf Pack senior Jerry Evans said.

The Rams went on a 10-2 run to take an 18-12 lead midway through the first half. Bejarano, who had 17 points, had a 3-point play to open the run. Joe De Ciman had a lay-up for a 20-14 lead with 9:39 to play. De Ciman also had a dunk for a 26-24 Rams’ lead with 3:07 to go.

Carter then changed the Pack defense.

“We went to a zone,” the Pack coach said. “I think that took some of their guys out of their offense and they weren’t able to penetrate as much.”

The Wolf Pack outscored the Rams 9-2 over the final 2:46 of the half to take a 33-28 lead at the break. D.J. Fenner started the run with a running jumper for a 28-26 lead. A.J. West tipped in a Cole Huff miss for a 30-26 lead and Evans had a 3-point play for a 33-28 lead. Colorado State missed its last four shots of the half.

“When we went to a zone and stopped their penetration, that was a game-changer,” Evans said.

The Wolf Pack broke a 38-38 tie with a game-changing 11-0 in the second half. The run took all of 104 seconds as the Pack took a 49-38 lead and never trailed the rest of the game. West had a 3-point play to start the uprising and Coleman had a 3-point play to close it out. In between Burton had a lay-up and Evans drained a 3-pointer.

“I thought our energy was good throughout the whole game,” said Burton, who had a team-high 18 points thanks to an 8-for-8 showing at the free throw line.

The Wolf Pack never trailed after their 11-0 run in the second half. Coleman hit a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 55-45 lead with 10:52 to go, Burton converted a 3-point play for a 58-47 lead with just over 10 minutes to play and Michael Perez’s two free throws gave the Pack a 60-47 lead with 9:26 left.

Colorado State also went cold from the floor, at one point missing 15-of-17 shots during a stretch that lasted over seven minutes.

“We just defended very well,” said Coleman, who came off the bench to score seven points. “That’s what is helping us win games lately.”

Colorado State didn’t cut the Pack lead to under seven until the final minute. Colorado State’s Jon Octeus (21 points) hit two free throws to cut the Pack lead to just 72-67 with 1:01 to play. Burton and Huff, though, each converted two free throws of their own down the stretch for the nine-point victory as the Rams missed their last six shots.

The Wolf Pack, which did not get a single point from its bench in a 64-62 overtime loss at Wyoming last Saturday, received 13 points from its reserves against Colorado State. In addition to Coleman’s seven points in 13 minutes, the bench also produced four points in 10 minutes from Fenner and two points in three minutes from Ali Fall.

“That is definitely important,” Burton said. “The deeper we get into the season, the more we’re going to need our bench. They gave us an energy boost.”

“D.J. Fenner and Marqueze gave us a lift with their scoring,” Carter said. “That’s very important.”

Four Pack players scored in double figures, led by Burton’s 18. Evans, who had three 3-pointers, finished with 16 points and Huff and West each had a dozen. West also had nine rebounds and four blocks.

“We need everybody,” Carter said.

The Wolf Pack also needs to start winning consistently at home. The victory over Colorado State evened the Pack’s record at 5-5 at Lawlor Events Center this year.

“The big thing in this conference is to win at home because the road games are so tough,” Evans said. “We have to protect home.”

The Wolf Pack will host Air Force on Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center.


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