Burton propels Nevada Wolf Pack past Cal State Fullerton
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO –David Carter didn’t hesitate to put the ball in Deonte Burton’s hands Friday night.
“Anytime the game is close I’m going to call his number,” said Carter after his Nevada Wolf Pack outlasted the Cal State Fullerton Titans, 80-77, at Lawlor Events Center. “I trust he’s going to make the right play.”
Burton drove the left side of the lane for a layup, absorbed a foul and made the free throw for a three-point play to give the Pack a 78-77 lead over the Titans with 14 seconds to play.
“I was surprised it opened up like that,” Burton said. “They were sinking off (on defense) the whole game.”
Burton owned the final 14 seconds of the game.
After giving the Pack the lead the junior point guard blocked a layup by Fullerton’s D.J. Seeley with 2.6 seconds to go.
“I couldn’t give it up,” said Burton, who also put the game away with a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds to go.
“I just scored for the lead so I couldn’t just give it up.”
The Wolf Pack, trailing 77-75, called a timeout with 27.6 seconds to play.
“I just told Deonte, ‘You got to make a play,'” Carter said. “He’s a big-time player. He wants the ball in that type of situation.”
The victory, on the first day of the three-day, four-team World Vision Classic that also includes Green Bay and Southern Utah, evened the Pack’s record at 1-1.
“This was a real big win for us,” said junior Kevin Panzer of the home-opening victory. “This type of win is really going to boost our confidence.”
The Big West Conference’s Titans, which lost 81-68 at Stanford on Monday to open their season, led the entire first half and took a 37-32 lead at the intermission. Fullerton led by as much as 12 (24-12) in the opening half.
“We definitely got off to a slow start,” said Panzer, who scored 18 points. “But we eventually found the right group of guys to win it.”
The Titans frustrated the Pack in the first half with four guards on the floor.
“They were spreading the floor on us,” said Pack freshman Cole Huff, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. “Everytime we made a run they kept coming back.”
Carter struggled to find the right lineup to combat the smaller Titans in the opening half.
“I was just trying to find the right combination,” Carter said. “I didn’t want to get too many guys too tired, especially Deonte because we have to play three games in three days.”
Carter ended up playing point guards Burton, Marqueze Coleman and Keith Fuetsch a combined 58 minutes with Burton playing 36 of the 40 minutes.
“I tried to get them (Fullerton) out of their rhythm a little bit but they found a way to keep their rhythm going,” Carter said.
Burton played 18 minutes, Coleman played 12 and Fuetsch played four in the second half. Senior Malik Story, who lead the Pack with 21 points in a 78-64 loss at UC Irvine last Saturday, played just seven minutes in the second half and finished with five points in 23 minutes.
“I went with a smaller lineup mainly for defense,” Carter said. “It wasn’t necessarily for offense.”
The Pack, which has now won 11 games in a row against Fullerton and owns a 12-4 lead in the series, took its first lead at 48-47 on an offensive rebound and layup by Huff with 14:33 to play in the second half. Burton then drove the baseline for a 50-47 lead a minute later.
Fullerton, which had four players in double digits led by Kwame Vaughn’s 20 points, stormed back to take a 72-67 lead on a 3-pointer by Alex Harris with 4:50 to play.
“We just knew we had to just keep attacking,” said Burton, who led the Pack with 19 points and three assists.
The Wolf Pack will play Green Bay at 6:05 p.m. today and Southern Utah on Sunday at 3:35 p.m.
“We won a lot of close games last year,” Carter said. “We know how to win those games.”