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Nevada beats Fresno State

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO — Nevada is creeping ever closer to post-season form.

Nick Fazekas scored 30 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, and the Pack held Fresno State to 36 percent shooting and outrebounded the Bulldogs by 18 en route to a 74-60 win in the regular-season finale at Lawlor Events Center Saturday night.

The win was Nevada’s 11th straight, upping its record to 24-5 overall and 13-3 in conference. The record matched Nevada’s regular-season record of last season.

“We’re playing at a high level,” Fazekas said after his 16th double-double of the season. “We’re not at our best yet. All the wins, I think it’s 11 straight. It’s a lot of momentum to carry in.”

Mark Fox, Nevada head coach, agreed. He said that two areas the Pack improved on from the 87-77 loss back in January were defense and rebounding (season-high 51 rebounds, 21 offensive).

“It wasn’t a pretty game, but we got what we came here for,” he said. “It wasn’t as pretty as we can play. I think we can get better. We find ways to win. We’re more and more versatile offensively. Overall we’re much better.

“We defended much better and rebounded the ball better.”

Nevada held Quinton Hosley, who scored 35 in the first meeting, to 23. He shot less than 50 percent from the floor compared to the 10-for-14 effort he put on the Pack the last time.

“We guarded him,” Fox said when asked if the Pack defended Hosley differently. “He’s a great player; a terrific player. We wanted to make sure he didn’t have a lot of open looks.”

Nevada ‘s duo of Kyle Shiloh and Lyndale Burleson held FSU’s No. 2 scorer, Ja’Vance Coleman, in check. Coleman went 2-for-12 and finished with only six points. Several of the shots were rushed and out of character.

Shiloh played AAU ball with Coleman, and his familiarity showed in both games this year. Coleman sat out the last six or seven minutes of the contest.

“I definitely agree with that (Fox’s statements),” Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. “Nevada defensively did a very good job. Size-wise they are bigger and stronger. For us to do well, we need to score in transition.

“Obviously Nick Fazekas was a huge factor. We did a better job on Marcelus Kemp and Kyle Shiloh tonight than we did at our place. Nevada did a great job. They played at a higher energy level than we did.”

Fazekas notched his fourth 30-point game of the year, knocking down 12-for-23 from the field, and seven of his 11 rebounds were at the offensive end. His effort boosted his career total to 1,725, a mere six behind Alex Boyd, who played from 1967-70.

“That was a quiet 30 I’ll tell you,” Fox said. “I told him underclassmen have to win the game on Senior Night. Seniors are so emotional they don’t play well. I don’t think he understood that last year.”

The message definitely got through this year, and Fazekas took control from the outset.

Trailing 16-15, Nevada went on an 11-3 run for a 26-19 lead. Fazekas, who scored 17 (7-for-14 shooting) in the opening half, started the surge with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Demarshay Johnson scored on a layup and Marcelus Kemp (12 points) hit a jump shot off a screen to make it 22-16 with 8:22 left.

Donovan Morris retaliated with a 3-pointer (Fresno State was 6-for-19 on 3s), but Nevada outscored the Bulldogs 7-3 over the next three-plus minutes for a 29-22 advantage. Five of the seven points came on free throws and Fazekas had the only basket in that stretch.

Hosley, who torched the Pack for 35 points the first time around, was only 4-for-11 (4-for-7 on 3-pointers) and didn’t do much damage.

Fresno State rushed many of its outside shots and hit 11-for-31 (35 percent). Cleveland said after the game that his team took several shots that left him scratching his head.

Nevada found success with its long-range game to start the second half, as Kemp knocked in 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to give Nevada a 42-32 lead with 18:39 left. Fazekas drilled a trey from the left side for a 13-point lead, 47-34.

Fresno State cut the lead to 51-41 on baskets by Hosley and Kevin Bell, but Nevada scored seven of the nine points to take its biggest lead of the game, 58-43, with 10:51 remaining.

Johnson started the surge with a tip-in off a Fazekas miss and then Fazekas put back his own miss. After Hosley scored, Shiloh drained a 3-pointer.

Fresno State was unable to make much of a dent in the lead after Shiloh’s score, thanks mainly to Fazekas, who scored Nevada’s next six points to make it 64-52 with 7:45 left. The Bulldogs never got any closer the rest of the contest.

Now, it’s on to the WAC Tournament. Nevada faces Idaho, a team it barely beat by six points on the road recently. Expect Nevada to come out with plenty of resolve. The Pack don’t want a repeat of last year when they lost on a last-second tip-in to Boise State.

“We have to come out with a better mindset,” Fazekas said. “I don’t remember what happened, but I know it hurt. It hurt not being able to play in those games.”

“I give coach (Leonard) Perry credit,” Fox said. “He has his team playing hard in the face of adversity. We have to be ready to play.”