Nevada men beat Seattle Pacific
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada basketball fans got a glimpse of the returning – JaVale McGee – and the new – Armon Johnson – Saturday afternoon.
McGee, the Pack’s 7-foot sophomore, put up an impressive double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and Johnson, the freshman from nearby Hug High, scored 22 and dished out eight assists in Nevada’s 80-73 exhibition win over Seattle Pacific at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada played without Brandon Fields and Marcelus Kemp, both of whom were benched for violations of team policy. Both are expected back for next Sunday’s opener at Central Florida.
McGee knocked down 13 of 16 field-goal attempts, including six dunks, and he threw down two 3-point field goals.
“JaVale had a very good day,” Fox said. “He’s had a lot of good days like that in practice. He’s a much improved player and it was great to see that.”
“I think I did OK,” said the soft-spoken McGee. “I just tried to play hard.”
Johnson was 8-for-18 from the floor in his 36-minute stint.
“Armon just needs experience. He’s never acted like a freshman or played like a freshman,” Fox said. “He did a nice job for the first game. I thought he played very well and under control. There were only two possessions I’d like to have back.”
Johnson got the loudest applause from the 3,868 in attendance.
“I think I did what I needed to do to help us win, and that’s what’s important,” Johnson said.
Despite the play of the two youngsters, Nevada had a tough time putting away the Falcons. That didn’t surprise Fox.
“They’re a good team,” Fox said. “I’m not surprised it was a good game. That’s one of the reasons why I scheduled them. They are a very, very solid team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I was hopeful it was going to be a good game.”
That’s all Seattle Pacific coach Jeff Hironaka was hoping his team could deliver.
“We had no answer for their bigs,” Hironaka said. “We just had to make them work. I can’t lack the effort of our guys. They played hard. Obviously not having a couple of their players helped.
“They’re bigs are as good as they’ve been. McGee is going to be as good as (Nick) Fazekas before he’s through. Armon is very poised. He didn’t play like a freshman. I don’t know if he could be Ramon Sessions or not. He certainly goes to the basket better as a freshman than Ramon did.”
Seattle Pacific trailed 13-12 with 12:26 left in the opening half, but Nevada, led by McGee and Johnson, went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-12 lead. Johnson hit a floater and two free throws, and McGee knocked down a triple from the top of the key. McGee completed the run with a dunk off a nice feed by Johnson.
Seattle Pacific got back into the game with a 9-4 run in the final three minutes of the half, as Marques Echols (20 points) scored five points and Rich Diederichs (16 points) added two buckets.
The Falcons continued their strong play in the second half and went ahead 45-42 thanks to JoJay Jackson, who knocked down two 3-pointer and two free throws.
Again, it was Johnson and McGee that brought the Pack back. The two combined for a 9-1 run to give the Pack a 51-46 lead with 11:21 left. The last bucket in the run saw McGee steal a pass in the open court and go coast-to-coast for a Julius Erving-type dunk.
Seattle Pacific did get it back to 55-54 with 8:51 left, but two free throws by Demarshay Johnson, a three by Armon Johnson and a free throw by McGee stretched the lead to 61-54.
The Falcons did get the game back down to three with 2:14 left, but Nevada ripped off seven quick points to put it away.
One thing Fox liked was the unselfishness of his team. The Pack had 18 assists on 27 baskets.
“We had more assists than turnovers,” Fox said. “We haven’t had to battle that. We’ve been pretty cohesive from Day 1. They try to make each other better.”