Nevada dominates Arkansas Pine-Bluff
BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO “Nevada’s Brandon Fields had season highs in points and rebounding Wednesday night, and he looked like his old self on the floor.
Fields scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Wolf Pack to an easy 87-58 nonconference basketball win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 6-4 entering a road game at California on Saturday, while the Golden Lions fell to 1-8.
Fields, who was suspended for the first two games of the season after being cited for petty larceny on Oct. 15, is gradually showing some of his 2007-08 form when he averaged 14 points in Western Athletic Conference games. In the last three Nevada wins, he’s averaged 13.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
“I was getting my shots in rhythm,” Fields said. “It’s nice to have the support of my teammates. They keep telling me to be aggressive and keep shooting the ball.”
The numbers would indicate a breakout game, but Nevada coach Mark Fox didn’t agree.
“I thought he played well against Southern Illinois,” Fox said. “He was aggressive tonight and got the ball to the basket. He got some easy ones. He got to the line (7-for-7). We were disappointed with his rebounding on Sunday (no rebounds), and he rebounded well tonight. It was good to see. He had a productive night.”
Fields led a parade of double-figure scorers for the Pack. Armon Johnson contributed 17 points and seven assists, while Luke Babbitt added 11 and Malik Cooke 10. Joey Shaw just missed double figures with nine points.
Overall, Fox was obviously happy to get the win, but wasn’t happy with the defensive effort or his team’s transition game.
“I really thought it looked like a final exams game,” Fox said. “Early we looked lethargic mentally. I thought we were sloppy and sluggish in a lot of ways. Fortunately, we played a team that has been on the road forever.”
The early issues allowed Arkansas Pine-Bluff to hang around for the first 14-plus minutes of the first half before Nevada, led by Johnson, went on a 14-5 half-ending run.
Leading 23-20, Malik Cooke drained two free throws. After a turnover, Johnson knocked in a short jump shot in the key. On the Golden Lions’ next possession, Tyree Glass forced a shot from the corner. Fields threw an alley-oop pass to Johnson, who slammed it home with authority. Joey Shaw drained a 3-pointer from the left side to make it 32-20 with 3:19 left.
Lebaron Weathers ended the 9-0 run with a 3-pointer from the right corner. Nevada freshman guard London Giles made his first field goal of the season, a 3-pointer, and Johnson made two free throws for a 37-23 lead.
Arkansas Pine-Bluff’s Gavin Montgomery scored on a buzzer-beating drive to end the half down by 12.
Ten of Nevada’s first-half points were transition baskets, and that can be credited to solid defensive rebounding and a defense that forced 13 first-half turnovers and 25 for the game.
“I like to get up and down the floor, which means we’re playing good defense,” Johnson said. “We’re playing much more aggressive defense and that’s turning into offense at the other end.”
Fox said the defense wasn’t as good as it was on Sunday. Nevada pressed more than it has all season, and at times it was effective.
“We were fortunate to have some chances to extend our defense,” Fox said. “We forced some turnovers, but I don’t think we were as efficient as we should be.”
The teams played on even terms for the first four minutes of the second half before Nevada went on a 12-5 run to up its margin to 52-34 with 12:54 remaining.
Babbitt started the surge with a free throw, Fields followed with a driving layup and Shaw popped in a 3-pointer to make it 46-29.
An inside score by Hugh Barnett and a 3-pointer by Montgomery (20 points on the night) cut the deficit to 46-34.
On the next possession, Fields made a great hustle play, tracking down a missed shot by Shaw and putting it back in for a score. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to make it 49-34. Ray Kraemer’s 3-pointer from the top of the key boosted the lead to 18.
Nevada led 64-44, but the Golden Lions went on a 6-0 run to close the gap to 64-50 with 7:45 left. Nevada countered with an 11-4 run over the next three-plus minutes to push the lead to 75-54 with 3:41 left.
Johnson scored on two layups, Babbitt had a dunk and 3-pointer and Fields contributed a nice reverse layup.
Fields would go on to score six more points in the final 1:56 to cap his best night of the season.
– Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or (775) 881-1281