Nevada men close out 2007 with a win | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada men close out 2007 with a win

Nevada men close out 2007 with win

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – For Nevada, Monday’s non-conference game against Stanislaus State accomplished two things.

It enabled the Wolf Pack to play a game before opening conference play against Utah State on Jan. 5, and allowed coach Mark Fox to play everybody on his roster. Ten of Nevada’s 13-man roster played 12 minutes or more, and the most minutes played were 23 each by freshman Malik Cooke and junior Lyndale Burleson.

Led by Marcelus Kemp and Demarshay Johnson, who each scored 19 points, Nevada rolled to an easy 104-75 win over the Division II Warriors before a crowd of 5,878 at Lawlor Events Center.

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It was the first time Nevada had eclipsed the 100-point mark since beating Rice 101-76 on Jan. 24, 2003, with ex-coach Trent Johnson at the helm.

The scoring was well distributed, as five players reached double figures for the second time this season. Besides Kemp and Demarshay Johnson, Brandon Fields contributed 14, JaVale McGee 18 and Matt LaGrone 10.

“We played a team from a different division,” Fox said. “They played extremely hard. We have a lot of guys that were able to finish plays. We were bigger than they were.”

And, despite the fact that Stanislaus couldn’t give the Pack a whole lot of competition, Fox felt that playing was better than just practicing prior to the Utah State game on Saturday.

“We needed a game,” Fox said. “We needed a game for our season-ticket package and it’s always different with people in the seats and when you’re guarding somebody you don’t see every day in practice. It was better to play a game.

“We played a lot of guys, and we were able to finish plays as we ran guys in and out of there.”

Fields was thankful for the game. He was coming off a horrid five-point effort against North Carolina where he made just 2-of-9 from the field. He knocked down 6-of-10 against the Warriors, including 2-of-5 from beyond the arc.

“It helped me get my confidence back in my shot,” Fields said.

The one thing that displeased Fox was his team’s defense. The smaller Warriors were able to penetrate and dish out for 32 3-point attempts.

“I don’t think we defended very well,” Fox said. “We were not quite committed as it will require (for a conference game).”

The Warriors made 11 of their 32 3-point attempts, but that wasn’t going to be near enough to pull off an upset.

“We had to make shots,” Stanislaus State coach Keith Larsen said. “I thought we had some pretty good looks. We just didn’t finish. We have to make a lot of threes against a team that big. I think they intimidated early because of their reputation for blocking shots.

“I saw some things that we can take into conference. We went by some Division I defenders and got to the basket.”

McGee blocked four shots, including consecutive rejections on Stanislaus’ first possession of the game. He moved into eighth place on the all-time list with 76 blocks.

Nevada shot a season-best 66.7 percent in the first half, knocking down 22-of-33 field goal attempts to grab a 56-35 lead.

The Pack scored 11 of the game’s first 13 points as Kemp threw in two field goals, LaGrone and Armon Johnson added one each while McGee added a basket and free throw.

Stanislaus climbed back to within 19-18 thanks to a 15-8 run led by Duane Jones, who had seven of his team-high 19 points in that span.

However, the Pack went on a 27-9 tear over the next nine minutes to extend its lead to 46-27 with 3:54 remaining. McGee culminated the surge with a nice reverse dunk along the baseline.

The teams played on near-even terms for the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half before Nevada went on a 17-7 tear in a 6-minute, 16 second span to get the lead to over 30 for the first time, 83-52, with 8:34 left.

Kemp contributed seven in that span, while Demarshay Johnson had two free throws and a nice jump shot after grabbing a loose ball. LaGrone had a slam dunk in transition. Ray Kraemer and Armon Johnson also scored in the barrage.

“Everybody contributed,” McGee said. “That’s how we win.”

Nevada got to the century mark on Demarshay Johnson’s slam dunk with two minutes left in the contest.

Larsen was very impressed with Nevada, and talked in glowing terms about the Pack, especially McGee, Armon Johnson and Kemp.

“McGee is so long,” Larsen said. “We played in front of him and we trapped him. He has a spin move, a drop step and then hit that 3-pointer when I thought we were going to get it under 20 and make a run. He’s going to be a great player. I’m more impressed than what I saw on film.

“Their point guard (Armon Joshon) is going to get better. They need a wing defender, and I think that Kemp can be that guy.”

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281