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Nevada falls to Colorado State

Joe Santoro
For the Appeal

RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack closed out its home season with yet another loss at Lawlor Events Center Wednesday night.

“I don’t know what it is,” Wolf Pack coach David Carter said after a 78-62 loss to the Colorado State Rams in front of a crowd of 5,909. “I don’t know what our mental state is at home. I don’t know if it’s the pressure to perform at home, or what. But it’s been two years like this now.”

The Wolf Pack, now 9-20 overall and 5-12 in the Mountain West, lost six of its last eight home games to finish the year with a 7-8 record at Lawlor Events Center for the second consecutive season.

“We saw this year that when we play well, there’s enough energy in the building to propel us to a victory,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack was 16-2 at home just three seasons ago (2011-12). “I can’t explain it.”

The Pack seemed to run out of energy against the Rams. The Pack trailed 43-32 at halftime and then saw Colorado State score seven of the first eight points of the second half to take a 50-33 lead.

“When we got down we didn’t have any fight in us,” said Marqueze Coleman, who had 12 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

The Wolf Pack also missed 16 of its first 17 shots in the second half.

“We never really recovered,” said Carter, who has watched his team lose 12 of its last 15 games since a win at UNLV on Jan. 7.

Colorado State, which handed the Pack a demoralizing 98-42 loss on Jan. 14 in Colorado Springs, never allowed the Pack back in the game in the second half. The Rams (25-5, 12-5) went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half to take a commanding 67-39 lead with 10 minutes to play. Daniel Bejarano (10 points, 10 rebounds) started the run with a 3-pointer with 12:55 left. J.J. Avila and Bejarano followed with layups, John Gillon converted a 3-point play and Carlton Hurst finished the run with a dunk with 10:07 to play.

“We just didn’t play good enough defense on their fast break,” said Pack center A.J. West, who finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five turnovers in 32 minutes.

Colorado State also had 19 points off 16 Wolf Pack turnovers.

“We have to take care of the ball,” said Pack guard Tyron Criswell, who had a team-high 15 points. “It seems like when we turn the ball over we kind of just jog back on defense and that gives them an opportunity to score in transition.“

Fred Richardson connected on a 3-pointer to give the Rams a 76-55 lead with four minutes to play and Gillon hit a short jumper in the paint for a 78-57 lead with 1:42 left.

The Wolf Pack’s only lead was 4-3 two minutes into the game after a jumper by Michael Perez in the paint. The Wolf Pack, though, stayed right with the Rams for much of the opening half.

Criswell had a pair of free throws to cut the Colorado State lead to 15-12 with 10:49 left in the first half. West had a layup to slice the deficit to 18-14 with 10:11 to go and Criswell converted a 3-point play with 7:23 left to pull the Pack to within 24-19.

D.J. Fenner scored in the lane to cut the Rams lead to 26-21 with 5:41 to go before halftime and Coleman had a 3-point play to cut the deficit to 33-28 with 2:52 to play.

The key play of the first half, though, took place with 1:23 to go. Avila scored over the Pack’s Eric Cooper and Cooper was called for a foul. Carter argued the call and was given a technical foul. Gillon made the two technical fouls (Avila missed his free throw), giving the Rams a 39-30 lead.

“That was the turning point of the first half,” said Carter of the four-point swing. “That gave them the momentum and we went into the locker room down (43-32). That kind of deflated us a little bit.”

Avila, who was suspended and didn’t play in the Rams’ victory over Nevada in January, finished with a game-high 27 points. The 6-foot-8 senior was 11-of-16 from the floor.

“He got good position and he was able to finish,” West said.

“He’s a tough matchup for us,” Carter said. “He has good size and he takes advantage of his size. He also moves around a lot, which makes it tough to defend.”

The loss to the Rams gave the Wolf Pack its first 20-loss season since it went 9-20 in 1999-2000, the year Carter joined the program as an assistant to head coach Trent Johnson. The Wolf Pack had just four 20-loss seasons in the program’s history before this season (1966-67, 1970-71, 1971-72 and 1999-2000).

“We have to get back to the drawing board,” Carter said. “We don’t have a large margin for error.”

The Wolf Pack, Carter said, remembered the 56-point loss to the Rams in the middle of January when they took the court Wednesday night.

“We wanted to prove we could play with them,” Carter said.

“That was an embarrassing loss. It was a while ago but it was in the back of our minds.”

The Wolf Pack, which will close out the regular season Saturday night at San Diego State, got 40 points closer to the Rams in the rematch. A victory over the Rams on Wednesday would have given the Pack their first victory over a team that had beaten them by more than 40 points earlier in the same season. The 1971-72 Wolf Pack Pack lost to San Jose State by 40 points (102-62) and beat them in the rematch 82-76 a month later.

“It doesn’t matter if it was 20 points or if it was 50 points,” West said. “It still feels the same.”