D.J. Fenner scores 17 in Pack win | Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball notebook
For the Appeal
D.J Fenner is feeling comfortable, confident and a little cocky these days.
The Nevada Wolf Pack senior scored 17 points — a dozen in the second half — in a 72-69 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs at Lawlor Events Center on Wednesday night.
“He hit some big shots,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said, “especially that one when he came off a screen on the weak side. And then he had clutch free throw shooting. He stepped up for us.”
Fenner, who also had four rebounds and converted half (6-of-12) his shots, insists he was only doing his job as a senior.
“That did cross my mind,” Fenner said. “I knew I had to show leadership and step up for my teammates in a big game like this. I knew I had to be more vocal and help lead this team.”
Fenner did exactly that when it counted most.
His 3-pointer from the right elbow gave the Wolf Pack a 47-41 lead with 13:17 to go and his 12-foot jumper from the right baseline put the Pack up 51-45 with 11:19 to go.
“We look at a guy like that for leadership,” sophomore Cam Oliver said. “I’ve only been here two years. He’s been here four years. He has that experience. We definitely rely on him.”
Fenner, in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game because of an injury (concussion) to Josh Hall, was more than happy to lead the Wolf Pack down the stretch. His jumper, again from the right elbow, gave the Wolf Pack a 62-53 lead with 4:37 to go and his third 3-pointer of the game gave the Wolf Pack a 65-56 lead with 2:22 to go. He then helped ice the victory with a pair of free throw with 18 seconds left, giving the Pack a 70-66 lead.
“Winning this game was huge for us,” said Fenner, who had never beaten San Diego State in five tries in his Wolf Pack career before Wednesday. “This shows a lot about our character, to come back from a one-point loss (77-76 at Fresno State on Dec. 31) and come back to beat a team like this. It means a lot.”
Fenner, who has played more games in a Wolf Pack uniform than any other player currently on the roster, has adjusted nicely to his new role as a starter. He’s averaging 17.5 points and four rebounds a game the last two games as a starter. He’s made 11-of-23 shots from the field and all six of his free throws in the two games.
“I’m happy for him,” Musselman said. “I know he wanted to start all along.”
Musselman didn’t hesitate to put Fenner back in the starting lineup when Hall got hurt. Fenner started 36-of-38 games a year ago and also the season opener this year before coming off the bench for 13 consecutive games.
“It was the only decision to make,” said Musselman, of putting Fenner back in the starting lineup. “It wasn’t even discussed. He deserves it.”
Fenner has taken advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s nice,” he said. “I’m going to do my job regardless. But I can’t say it doesn’t feel good when they (the public address announcer before the game) say, ‘D.J. Fenner from Seattle, Washington.’”
Fenner was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers against the Aztecs and has now made 7-of-12 in his last two games back in the starting lineup. He has now made a 3-pointer in 10 consecutive games.
“I’m ready to go out there,” he smiled.
“I don’t even think about it. I’m confident. I just let it go. I was (0-for-9) on threes my freshman year (and just 13-of-61 his sophomore year). I will never forget that. It’s just good to see all the hard work pay off.”
Fenner has also made 12 of his last 14 free throws over the last four games.
“I just think to myself, ‘You’ve been here (the free throw line) so many times before,’” said Fenner, of his two free throws with 18 seconds to go against the Aztecs. ‘”There’s no way you are going to miss these free throws. Just take your time and make the free throws.’”
Just like a senior leader is supposed to do.
“We’ve come close to beating these guys before and let it slip away so to finally do it as a senior feels good,” Fenner said.