Nevada has easy win over Maine
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – It was a tune-up game. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s the kind of stress-free game you like to have coming off your Christmas break.
The 18th-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack tuned up for Saturday’s huge match-up with Gonzaga with an easy 89-69 victory over outmanned Maine in a non-conference game Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 11-1, matching the start of the 1951-52 team that finished with a 19-3 overall record. Maine dropped to 5-7.
Nevada coach Mark Fox kept everybody’s minutes down. All 13 players saw action, and nobody played more than 25 minutes. Obviously, Fox wants fresh legs for Saturday’s showdown between two of the top programs on the West Coast.
“It’s a tough game to play,” Fox said. “We’re coming off a long Christmas break. We’ve been practicing twice a day. We played a lot of guys, so our rhythm was disrupted. It felt like forever since we last played.
“The No. 1 thing is to win the game. I was hoping we’d get a big lead so we could play our younger players extended minutes. Not taking anything away from Maine, I thought this might be the game we could do that.”
Nevada got 27 points off the bench, including a career-high of eight apiece for freshmen Brandon Fields and Tyrone Hanson. David Ellis had six in his 10-minute stint.
Certainly Maine coach Ted Woodward was impressed.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Nevada,” Woodward said. “They are a good basketball team. They shoot the ball well, they have great size, great depth and they play tremendous defense.
“The first half we did a few good things. We had breakdowns on our transition defense and gave them a 10-to-12 point spurt.”
Probably the most irritating thing to Fox was the impatience of his team on offense in the early going.
“We were impatient in the first half,” Fox said. “We were looking for the 3-pointer too much. We shot way too many 3s. We only missed three two-point field goals (in the first half).”
Nevada missed its first four shots from long range, and eventually finished the first half 5-for-16 from beyond the arc.
Still, Nevada had enough firepower to score 13 of the game’s first 17 points, as All-American Nick Fazekas scored eight of his 18 points in that span.
The Pack went on a 14-5 run, including an 8-2 burst, to extend their lead to 33-17 lead with 6:31 left in the half. Fazekas had a three-point play, Denis Ikovlev drained a trey from the top of the key and Kemp drained two free throws.
Nevada extended its lead to 53-32 with 17:10 left on a tip-in by Kyle Shiloh and a bucket in the paint by Ikovlev.
Maine rebounded with a 7-0 run, as Junior Bernal knocked in two free throws, Olli Ahvenniemi scored on a putback, and following a turnover, Kevin Reed knocked in a 3-pointer to make it 53-39 with 15:48 left in the game.
That’s when Kemp, who led all scorers with 20 points, took over.
He scored from the right side, and after Mark Socoby drained a 3-pointer, Kemp knocked in a 3-pointer for a 58-42 lead. Fields drove the lane for a bucket, and then Kemp drained a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 21-point lead, 63-42.
“The second half we were in there for a while and we got it back to 14 (53-39),” Woodward said. “(Marcelus) Kemp is an outstanding basketball player. He hit consecutive 3s, and it was an uphill battle at that point.”
Maine never got closer than 18 points the rest of the way, as the Black Bears’ defense was no match for Nevada, which shot 64 percent in the final 20 minutes and 60 percent for the game.