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Nevada hoops tops century mark in win

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – A hungry Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team devoured the Houston Cougars, 112-99, Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.

“I was real, real hungry,” said guard Brandon Fields, who scored a season-high 24 points. “I think we were all hungry to get this one.”

Fields was also seeing red Saturday night. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels red, that is.

“I was mad for the whole two days after UNLV (an 88-75 Pack loss Wednesday night),” Fields said. “For two days that’s all I was thinking about. That’s why I think we were all hungry. And it showed.”

The Wolf Pack, now 2-1, showed for the first time this season that it could put two solid halves of offensive basketball together. The Pack shot 63 percent in the first half and 58 percent in the second to finish at 61 percent for the game.

“We shot the ball very well,” said Pack coach David Carter. “It was a great effort. I think our guys are all shooting the ball with confidence now.”

The Pack had five players in double-figures in scoring, led by Joey Shaw’s career-high 26 points. Armon Johnson added 22, Ray Kraemer had 19 off the bench and Luke Babbitt added 14 to go along with Fields’ 24.

“Houston is a team that is going to keep coming at you,” said Carter of the 1-1 Cougars. “When you play a team like Houston you can’t slow down.”

The Wolf Pack led 61-44 at halftime and 84-58 with 13:52 to play. Houston, though, pulled within six (100-94) with five minutes to play. It was about then that memories of UNLV, when the Pack wasted a 12-point lead in the second half, came flooding back.

“I just think at that point we were just able to settle down,” Carter said. “Unlike UNLV, we were able to get back to playing our game. I think we grew up tonight.”

The Wolf Pack outscored Houston 12-5 over the final five minutes to improve their home record this season to 2-0.

“We just play well at home,” said Fields, who sat out most of the final 15 minutes after suffering from leg cramps.

“We showed a lot of maturity when they made that run at us,” Shaw said.

Shaw hit a pair of free throws and two jumpers as the Pack opened up a 108-94 lead with 4:08 to play.

“I just think we were more prepared for it than we were at UNLV,” said Shaw of Houston’s late run. “We obviously learned from Vegas.”

Kraemer, who played 21 minutes off the bench, made seven of nine shots from the field. The 6-foot-4 senior was instrumental in giving the Pack its 26-point (84-58) lead with 14 minutes to play, scoring eight points in a 52-second flurry on a pair of 3-pointers and a short jumper to the left of the basket.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Kraemer said. “I’m here to hit open shots and that’s what I did, like I’m supposed to.”

Kraemer also added three rebounds and three assists.

“They (Houston) went to a zone and I think they lost Ray a little bit there,” Carter said. “But that’s what Ray can do.”

That’s also what fellow seniors Fields and Shaw did against the Cougars. The Pack’s three seniors combined to shoot 74 percent (26-of-35) and score 69 points.

“I challenged those three seniors this summer,” Carter said. “I told them that we needed them to step up and have a big year. We are more than just two guys (Johnson and Babbitt) and we showed that tonight.

The Wolf Pack dominated the Cougars on the glass, 57-27. Babbitt had a game-high 17 rebounds and Dario Hunt and Shaw each had nine.

“The team that gets the most rebounds usually wins the game,” said Shaw, who is averaging seven rebounds a game this year. “That’s what our coaches have been preaching to us.”

The Wolf Pack now heads out on the road for three games, at Virginia Commonwealth (Nov. 27), North Carolina (Nov. 29) and Pacific (Dec.5).

“This game was huge,” Pack coach David Carter said. “We needed to come back after Vegas and play well. We didn’t want to go on the road with a 1-2 record.”