Memphis ends Wolf Pack’s season
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS, La. – The game was there for the taking a couple of different times late in the second half, but Nevada was unable to grasp it and run.
Trailing by two with 6 minutes, 17 seconds remaining, the 13th-ranked
Wolf Pack failed in their bid to tie the game on back-to-back possessions, and Memphis went on to score 14 unanswered points en route to a 78-62 win Sunday in the second round of the NCAA South Region game at New Orleans Arena.
Nevada finished with a school-best 29-5 record, and Memphis improved to
“It was a hard-fought game,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “Memphis is a very good team. We battled and hung in there. In the second half, they were too long. They rebounded it better. They out-rebounded us by eight, nine or 10 boards.
“We couldn’t get a stop without sending them to the line. They made some foul shots and were able to set their defense every time. We knew it would be a battle. We came here to win, make no mistake about it. We thought we were going to win.”
And Nevada could very well have played itself into the Sweet 16 spot for the second time in four years except for its meltdown at both ends of the floor. This was similar to the Sweet 16 game against Georgia Tech when Nevada failed to score in the last two-plus minutes and lost by five points.
Nevada opened the second half by hitting 11-of-21 shots from the field, but it missed its last seven attempts from the floor and turned the ball over three times in that span.
Nevada trailed 64-57 with 8:58 left, but a 3-pointer by Denis Ikovlev and two free throws by Nick Fazekas (20 points, seven rebounds) sliced the lead to 64-62 with 6:17 left.
Marcelus Kemp (18 points) stole a pass, but Fazekas was called for traveling. Kyle Shiloh picked up a loose ball on the next possession, and Fazekas caught a pass on the run, but his short one-hander went off the back iron.
Kemp was called for going over the back of Antonio Anderson, who drained both free throws for a 66-62 lead with 4:59 left.
“That (the one-hander) is a shot I make nine out of 10 times, and that could have changed the whole game because that would have changed the momentum and the game would have been tied and there was still plenty of time left,” Fazekas said. “That’s just how things went. Then Marcelus got called for the foul and that changed the momentum because they got to go down and shoot free throws. If my shot would have went in, there is no telling what would have happened.”
Even before those two misses, Ramon Sessions’ layup was blocked.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Ikovlev said. “We were right there -just two points. We had two chances. Ramon (Sessions) had a layup that could have been a goaltending and Nick had a good look.”
Andre Allen and Anderson each scored on driving layups in the 14-0 run. The rest of the way, Memphis hit enough free throws to keep the Pack at a comfortable distance.
“We had trouble guarding the last seven minutes,” Kemp said. “We were forced to foul and maybe we ran out of gas. We were playing as hard as we could and that’s how it ended.”
Much of the credit for Memphis’ win has to go to the Tigers’ defense. Nevada shot only 37 percent. Fazekas was only 7-of-18, and he had a few shots altered or blocked. It was one long day for Nevada’s top scorer.
“They were long and athletic,” Fazekas said. “I couldn’t make shots I usually make. The one Ramon threw to me, I couldn’t get it to go down. That was the turning point, and we really went downhill.”
Memphis coach John Calipari said he tried to do two things to Nevada defensively.
“Whenever he (Fazekas) screened, we rotated another guy to guard him,” Calipari said. “We tried to take away two or three things. We tried to keep the pressure on. Let’s get the ball out of (Ramon) Sessions’ hands and make the other guys handle the ball. You can’t do too much in a 24-hour time period.”
That worked well. Kemp was forced to bring up the ball many times when Memphis pressured in the backcourt. The Tigers’ pressure defense was especially effective in the first half, as Nevada got off to a slow start.
A 9-4 surge enabled Memphis to build a 23-16 lead, and Chris Douglas-Roberts scored five of those and 6-11 290-pound Kareem Cooper added a putback. It was one of four stickbacks for the Tigers in the first 20 minutes.
The Tigers enjoyed their biggest lead, 37-29, with 1:22 left. A 3-pointer by Ikovlev and a free throw by Shiloh cut the deficit to 37-33.
It was a minor miracle that Nevada was even in the game at all. Memphis missed six or seven lay-ups leading to a 36-percent shooting effort in the first half.
“The only thing I told the players is that they needed to unleash,” Calipari said. “We unleashed, but we missed a bunch of layups. But we played, and that’s what we have to do. We can’t think too much. You can’t unleash if you think too much.”
Memphis built its lead to 49-41 in the first 3:20 of the second half. Led by Fazekas and Kemp, Nevada slowly climbed back into the game.
Fazekas scored twice from close range, and Kemp drained two 3-pointers and scored on a layup. Kemp’s second 3-pointer trimmed Memphis’ lead to 56-53 with 13:47 left.
“The threes that he made were tough shots,” Anderson said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to force him to drive the ball and we didn’t do that, so he got two open looks and knocked them down. After that, we got up on him and tried to make him pass the ball.”
Kemp didn’t score the rest of the game, missing his last three shots from the field.
Jeremy Hunt threw in five quick points, helping the Tigers get the 64-57 lead, setting the stage for the Pack’s comeback attempt.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775)