Fazekas sparks Wolf Pack past Rebels
RENO – Nevada sophomore Nick Fazekas was missing in action for much of the second half, but came up big with the game on the line.
Fazekas, who scored 17 first-half points and finished with 25, scored eight points in a 3-minute 54-second span to spark Nevada to an 84-78 win over in-state rival UNLV Saturday night before a crowd of 9,433 at Lawlor Events Center.
The win upped Nevada’s record to 4-1 and increased its home wining streak to 18 games, the eighth-longest streak in the nation. It was an impressive effort considering Nevada had gotten blown out by 33 points in Kansas.
Mark Fox, Nevada’s first-year head coach, said the close game in Georgia and the blowout loss to Kansas were both helpful in getting his team ready for a close, physical game against UNLV.
“In the game at Georgia it was a single-digit game (for a while), and we played with great poise,” Fox said. “It helped us prepare for tonight. Getting drilled by Kansas helped prepare us for tonight. We got better on Wednesday and Thursday, and I think that will help us down the road again.
“We didn’t get Nick as many touches in the second half.”
Indeed. Fazekas disappeared and so did the Nevada offense.
Nevada let a 12-point halftime lead slip away, as Odartey Blankson (15 points) and Louis Amundson (all 13 points in second half) keyed a second-half 14-4 surge that sliced Nevada’s lead to 55-53 with 15:28 left. The game remained tight, and UNLV got lay-ups from Blankson and Amundson to take a 62-61 lead with 8:19 remaining.
Enter Fazekas, who finally got untracked.
He knocked down two free throws after a UNLV turnover at the 6:41 mark, and came back 23 seconds later with another foul shot for a 65-62 lead. Amundson knocked down a difficult lean-in shot and the ensuing free throw, re-tying the game at 65.
The game was tied at 66 and 68 before Nevada went on a 7-0 run for a 75-68 lead. Jermaine Washington, who was hampered by foul problems, threw down a dunk, and after UNLV’s Jerrel Blassingame (12 points) missed a lay-up, Fazekas took an outlet pass and threw down an impressive jam. After another Blassingame miss, Fazekas hit his second three-pointer of the night to complete the run.
“I looked at the scoreboard and we were down one,” Fazekas said. “We talked about toughening up. We made a few defensive stops and started running the floor well.”
UNLV wouldn’t go away, however.
A three-pointer by Romel Beck (17 points) and a free throw by Blassingame cut the lead to 78-73 with 1:11 left. Four free throws by Kevinn Pinkney and two by Mo Charlo (14 points) put the game away in the closing seconds.
It was an up-and-down game for Pinkney, who was in foul trouble much of the game. He still finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
“We had an experienced group on the floor (down the stretch),” Fox said. “Kevin Pinkney and Nick Fazekas know how to win. Jermaine Washington knows what it takes to win. They were able to work with Ramon (Sessions) and Mo (Charlo) to get things going and to do the things we needed to win the game.
“If I don’t get Kevinn and Jermaine out of the game (in the first half) they are not there the last five minutes and they helped win the game.”
Pinkney admitted that despite a fast start he was a little too emotional early in the game, but he was pleased with the way he bounced back with 12 second-half points.
Nevada bolted to an 11-0 lead, as Pinkney and Fazekas accounted for all 11 points. UNLV closed to 19-15, but a 10-0 run, led by a Charlo three-pointer made it 29-15. Fazekas had four points in the surge and Kyle Shiloh added a three-pointer.
Nevada kept the lead in double digits until the aforementioned 14-4 run by the Rebels in the early stages of the second half.
“We didn”t open the game like we needed to,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “That stretch in the second half was the way we wanted to play, but you need to do it for 40 minutes.”
Notes: Pinkney, the only three-year letterman on the Nevada roster, made his 54th consecutive start. .. Nevada is 221-86 all-time at Lawlor Events Center which spans 21 seasons. Nevada is 54-19 in the last five-plus seasons… The game was delayed several minutes in the second half when Charlo, diving for a loose ball along the sidelines, went into the stands. A female spectator was hit in the head by Charlo’s knee and taken to St. Mary’s Hospital… Gov. Kenny Guinn attended the contest, sitting next to casino lobbyist and big-time donor Harvey Whittemore. He shook hands with both coaches prior to the game… Nevada travels to Toledo for a game Tuesday and then hosts UOP next Saturday.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.