Cal Bears steal one from Wolf Pack
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack feels it gave the California Golden Bears an early Christmas present on Sunday at Lawlor Events Center.
“Yeah, we do,” Wolf Pack center A.J. West said after a 63-56 loss to Cal in front of a crowd of 5,467. “We were right there. It kind of hurts.”
The Wolf Pack, which has now lost six games in a row to fall to 2-6, failed to score at least 60 points for the fifth consecutive game. The last time that happened to the Pack was early in the 1966-67 season.
“I’m still optimistic the offense will come along,” Wolf Pack coach David Carter said. “The guys just need to develop that confidence.”
The Wolf Pack shot just 33 percent (18-of-54) for the game and made just 1-of-8 3-pointers. Just one Wolf Pack player — West with 13 points — scored in double figures. Starters Marqueze Coleman and D.J. Fenner were each 1-of-8 from the floor.
“We got one field goal each from three of our starters (Kaileb Rodriguez was 1-of-3),” Carter said. “You don’t anticipate that happening.”
A lack of offense, though, is becoming a familiar occurrence with the Wolf Pack this season. Nevada is averaging just 58.4 points a game and is shooting a mere 36 percent from the floor.
“We’re still trying to find our identity on the offensive end,” guard Michael Perez said. “Guys are still trying to figure out their roles.”
The Wolf Pack, now 2-1 at home this season, did turn in a productive first half on the offensive end of the floor. The Pack led 30-24 at the break, scoring the final six points of the half on two free throws and a jumper by Fenner and a lay-up by West as the half ended.
The Wolf Pack shot 41 percent (11-of-27) in the first half. Nobody stood out on the offensive end in the first half as seven different Pack players scored four points each but it was the type of effort and production Carter has been looking for.
“We need to be balanced on offense,” he said.
The Pack offense then vanished to open the second half. The Wolf Pack missed its first 10 shots of the second half as Cal pulled even at 30-30.
“We were getting stops on defense but we missed our first 10 shots,” Carter said. “That can’t happen.”
The first Pack points of the second half didn’t come until Robyn Missa hit a pair of free throws to give the Pack a 32-30 lead with 15:49 to go in the game. The first Pack field goal didn’t arrive until West had a lay-up to give the Pack a 35-32 lead with 14:39 to play.
“We played well in the first half on offense,” West said. “But it didn’t carry over to the second half.”
California also had its struggles on the offensive end. The Bears made just two (a 3-pointer and a lay-up by Tyrone Wallace) of their first 10 shots of the second half. Every shot Cal did make, though, seemed to cripple the offensively-challenged Pack.
“That three seemed to change the game,” said Carter of Wallace’s 3-pointer that cut the Pack lead to 30-27 two minutes into the second half.
Despite all of their frustrations offensively, the Wolf Pack stayed right with the Pac-12’s Bears to the end of the game.
Coleman’s only successful field goal of the game gave the Pack a 41-39 lead with 11 minutes to play. Ronnie Stevens, who had a season-high eight points, gave the Pack a 43-41 lead with a left-handed hook in the lane with nine minutes to go. West pulled down a missed free throw by Perez and buried it for a lay-up and a 46-44 Pack lead with 7:34 left and later added a pair of free throws for a 50-46 lead with six minutes left. West also hit a short jumper in the lane for a 52-51 lead with 4:34 left.
The Wolf Pack offense, though, disappeared again.
Cal took control of the game starting with a dunk by Christian Behrens that gave them a 53-52 lead with 4:09 to play. Wallace drained a fade away 15-footer from the right elbow for a 55-52 lead with 3:14 to play.
David Kravish scored inside for a 57-53 Cal lead with two minutes left and Wallace connected on an 8-footer in the lane for a 59-53 lead with 1:28 left.
The Pack, meanwhile, went cold from the floor. West missed a lay-up with 3:48 to play and Fenner misfired on a 3-pointer with 2:57 left. Coleman missed one of two free throws with 2:23 to play and then missed a jumper with 1:16 to go. Eric Cooper also missed a 3-pointer with 1:46 to play.
“We have a lot of guys who are playing on this level for the first time,” said Perez, who had nine points and missed 4-of-8 free throws. “It’s just the process we have to got through. Hopefully it will come sooner rather than later.”
Stevens connected on a pair of free throws to cut Cal’s lead to 59-55 with 1:14 to play and Coleman, who had four points, again made just 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Bears lead to 59-56 with 53 seconds left.
Kravish, though, scored over Stevens with a left-handed hook in the lane for a 61-56 Cal lead with 22 seconds left and Wallace put the finishing touches on the victory with a dunk with five seconds remaining. Wallace, who at times seemed to be the only player on the floor who could score, finished with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
Cal is now 7-1 on the year and has won four games in a row. The Wolf Pack will take to the court next on Saturday (7:05 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center against Cal State Fullerton.
“We have things to build on,” Stevens said.
“I thought we played real well,” Carter said. “We competed hard for 40 minutes. We are getting better.”