Nevada basketball beats Montana State
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Home sweet home.
Nevada, riding a three-game losing streak, returned home to start a four-game homestand and outlasted Montana State 82-76 Saturday night before a crowd of 6,492 at Lawlor Events Center.
The win was Nevada’s 26th in its last 28 games at Lawlor and improved the Pack’s record to 3-4. Conversely, Montana State, 4-4, stayed winless on the road.
Nevada coach Mark Fox has said all along that he was looking for improvement each and every day, and against the Bobcats he got it.
“We’ve improved as a team,” Fox said. “A lot of minutes we played well. We are still not as consistent enough or where I want us to be.
“We played better basketball for longer periods of time. That’s due to good practice.”
Nevada ran its offense better, collecting 18 assists on 26 baskets. The Pack eclipsed the 50 percent mark from the field for the third time this season and managed to beat the Bobcats on the boards, 32-30.
This one was every bit as tough as the final score indicated. It took some clutch shooting by Marcelus Kemp (23 points), Armon Johnson (11 points), Brandon Fields (9 points) and JaVale McGee (11 points) down the stretch to put the pesky Bobcats away.
Nevada went 9 for-10 from the foul line in the final minute, and MSU never got closer than three points in the last four minutes of the game.
Nevada shot 50 percent in the first half, but only had a 39-33 halftime lead to show for it, as the Bobcats scored five points in the final minute. Montana State, thanks to 16 points by Carlos Taylor, was able to whittle down leads of 11 and 10 in the opening 20 minutes.
“They had nine offensive rebounds in the first half,” Fox said. “We didn’t rebound the ball like we needed to. We’re so inexperience we have to learn things the hard way.”
“That’s been our mojo all season, working hard on the glass at the offensive end,” MSU coach Brad Huse said. “They put an emphasis on that in the second half.”
Montana State carried that momentum into the second half, outscoring Nevada 12-4 to grab a 45-43 lead as Divaldo Mbunga scored from close range twice, while Casey Durham knocked down a 3-pointer and converted a lay-up on consecutive possessions, causing Fox to hurl his coat to the floor in the process.
“I didn’t like the way we started the second half,” Fox said. “Fortunately we were able to rally.”
A 3-pointer by Ray Kraemer and a hook shot in the lane by Demarshay Johnson helped Nevada regain the lead 48-45, but a drive by Mecklen Davis, another 3-pointer by Durham and a bucket by Adrian Zamora gave the Bobcats a 52-50 lead with 11:50 remaining.
Nevada ran off seven straight points, as Kemp dished a nice pass to Kraemer for an easy layup, McGee knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Demarshay Johnson drained two free throws to make it 57-52.
Kemp played 28 minutes total, and some of those minutes were at the point when Armon Johnson got in foul trouble or needed a breather.
“I think I did well,” Kemp said. “There was one time I made a bad pass, but I thought I did well at the point guard spot.
“I think we played hard. Everybody contributed. We played good defense.”
Especially on Taylor, who managed just seven points in the second half, hitting just 3-for-7 from the floor against Fields.
“He’s a good player,” Fields said. “He shoots it real quick. I just tried to get my hands up on the shots.”
“He (Fields) challenged shots better,” Fox said. “Taylor lit us up offensively in the first half. We did a better job defensively in the second half.”
MSU closed to a point, 61-60 and 63-62, but five points by Kemp gave Nevada a 69-64 lead with 3:40 left. It was Kemp’s first points of the second half.
“I tried to stay in the offense, and not try to do too much,” Kemp said. Kemp hit 8 of his 14 attempts from the floor, including three 3-pointers.
Montana State cut the lead to 69-66 with 3:25 left, but two free throws by Armon Johnson and a slam dunk by Demarshay Johnson upped the lead to 73-68 with 1:54 left in the game.