Nevada falls to Utah State
Appeal Sports Writer
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Wait until next week.
That’s about all the Nevada basketball team can say after dropping a heartbreaking 79-77 decision to Utah State Friday night in the WAC semifinals at the Pan American Center.
“Utah State played well and we got beat,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said in his post-game press conference. “We were outplayed tonight.”
The loss, the second in eight days to the Aggies, dropped 10th-ranked Nevada to 28-4. Nevada played without Kyle Shiloh, who had a strained left hamstring.
Nick Fazekas, the Pack’s 6-11 All American forward, said that Nevada deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. The team may drop a couple of seeds because of the setback.
“If we don’t play in the NCAAs, that will be bad,” said Fazekas, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. “I will be upset. I feel we have played tough teams and should go to the NCAA Tournament.”
Speaking of tough that was an apt description of Nevada’s loss.
Utah State led by six points with 1:36 to play only to see Nevada storm back to tie the game at 77 with 19.3 left on a Marcelus Kemp jump shot following a turnover by Durrall Peterson.
Kemp, who led Nevada with 24 points, hit a big 3-pointer five seconds earlier to slice the deficit to 77-75. Kemp went 8-for-17 from the field.
Following Kemp’s basket, Utah State called timeout with 12.9 left to set up a final shot. You figured that Jaycee Carroll would get the last shot, but Aggie head coach Stew Morrill went a different direction.
Chaz Spicer, who enjoyed his third straight 20-point game, got the ball on the right side of the court. He kept backing down Nevada freshman Matt LaGrone and eventually drew a foul with 2.5 seconds left. Spicer’s shot went in, but the officials waved it off.
Fox complained bitterly about the call to veteran official Bill Gracey, gesturing wildly that Spicer should have been called for traveling.
Spicer, who went 6-for-6 from the line, calmly knocked down both free throws to give Utah State a 79-77 lead.
“We have called that play a few times, and he has delivered,” Morrill said. “That could have been a three-point play. He made some free throws like he did last time (against Nevada). So, to beat a top-10 team two times in eight days is a special accomplishment for this group.”
Spicer has delivered the game-winning shot the last four games.
“No that doesn’t get old,” Spicer said. “I just wanted to do it. Make them (is what went through his head). Finish the game out on defense, just don’t let them get a shot off. (Ramon) Sessions got a shot off, fortunately he missed it.”
Fazekas inbounded the ball and Sessions got the ball just past half-court. With the clock ticking madly toward zero, Sessions threw up a 1-handed floater that was short of the mark.
Fox said the Pack got the game-ending shot it wanted.
Nevada had two different seven-point leads – 46-39 with 16:26 left and 57-50 with 9:34 left – and failed to hold on.
There were two key plays in the Aggies’ comeback. Lyndale Burleson fouled Carroll (24 points) from beyond the 3-point line, and Carroll calmly drained all three to slice the deficit to 57-53 with 9:21 left.
Then came a huge play, at least at the time.
Sessions tried to throw a cross-court pass that was intercepted by Carroll, who appeared headed for a breakaway lay-up. Sessions grabbed Carroll, and was whistled for an intentional foul. Carroll made it 57-55 with two free throws, and Kris Clark tied the game at 57 with 8:08 left.
“That was the right call,” Morrill said. “Sometimes it doesn’t get called. It was a big play at the time.”
Carroll added a 3-pointer for a 60-57 lead, but Nevada battled back into a 66-all tie on a Kemp 3-pointer.
Durrall Peterson threw in back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Aggies a 72-66 lead with 2:15 remaining.
“Huge,” Morrill said. “It gave us a cushion. Those were tough shots. There were a lot of good plays down the stretch.”
Sessions hit a high-arching bank shot and four free throws in the latter stages of the game, but it wasn’t enough.
One thing lacking down the stretch were the touches that Fazekas got. He only took three shots from the field and attempted three free throws. Not exactly good offensive strategy. A 20-point scorer needs touches, and Fazekas didn’t get enough.
“Well, the ball just did not come my way,” Fazekas said. “I still shot 8-for-10 from the field which is good. I guess it was frustrating not to have the ball in my hands. I always want the ball in my hands. It’s not my call.”
Speaking of calls, Nevada will wait for theirs on Sunday. The Selection Sunday broadcast begins at 3 p.m.