Nevada men coast to win
RENO – It was like David against Goliath, only this time the underdog didn’t get a sniff of victory.
Heavily favored Nevada opened the game with four easy baskets in the paint, three by Kevinn Pinkney, en route to an easy 83-57 win over Eastern Illinois University in the Dodge Holiday Classic championship game before a crowd of 2,997 Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.
It was the second straight year that Nevada has swept through the tourney. The victory upped the Wolf Pack’s record to 6-3 entering Wednesday’s nonconference game at UC Davis.
“I felt like maybe we played our most complete game of the season,” first-year head coach Mark Fox said. “We were good on both ends of the floor.”
Indeed. Nevada held Eastern Illinois, 4-4, to a 31 percent effort from the field, pressuring one of EIU’s top scorers, Josh Gomes, into a 4-for-15 effort from the field. At the offensive end, Nevada hit 27 of 54 floor shots, including a season-best 8-for-12 from beyond the three-point arc against the Panthers’ 2-3 zone defense.
“That was a gamble we had to take,” Eastern Illinois head coach Rick Samuels said. “They were shooting 24 percent (on threes). They looked very confident shooting the ball. I told coach Fox after the game that I was going to send that tape out to everybody that shows they can shoot the ball.
“If you measure by this game, Nevada is the best team we’ve faced so far. Nick (Fazekas) is a hard guard. I had my best defender on him early, and he chased him around, then Fazekas takes him down to the post. He’s a really skilled kid. Pinkney wore us out on the first four possessions. That’s why we couldn’t play man-to-man. We couldn’t have kept him away from the basket.”
Pinkney, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, said he played a much more composed game compared to the previous night against Florida Atlantic.
“Tonight I took my time,” Pinkney said. “Instead of forcing every shot, I let the game come to me. It’s always a good thing to play a smaller guy that you can get a shot over anytime you want.”
Fazekas, who scored 22 for the second straight night, echoed Pinkney’s comments. Fazekas hit 17 of 21 shots from the field in the two-day tourney.
“We knew we had the upper hand,” Fazekas said. “Their tallest guy was 6-5, so I had a five or six-inch advantage which made it easy to shoot over the top.”
After Pinkney sparked Nevada to an early lead with two putbacks and a lay-up, Fazekas and Mo Charlo took over, sparking a 25-7 run over the next nine-plus minutes en route to a 33-18 lead. Charlo finished with a career-high 17 points on 3-for-3 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the line.
Fazekas hit from the key and then buried a three-pointer to start the surge. Charlo knocked down two quick threes for a 22-15 lead with 12:25 left. After a free throw by EIU’s Bobby Catchings, Pinkney converted a three-point play after an offensive rebound, Fazekas had a free throw, Washington went high for a tip-in, Seth Taylor buried a three from the left side and David Ellis scored from the paint.
“I felt good shooting the ball,” Charlo said. “I stayed after practice and took some extra shots with coach (David) Carter. It felt good knocking down the first three. The coaches told me if I see an opening don’t hesitate.”
“Mo is extremely athletic,” Pinkney said. “He can play 1 through 4 and maybe even 5. He really showed what he’s capable of doing. Hopefully this is the start of great things for Mo.”
Eastern Illinois scored six of the next eight points, but Nevada ended the half with eight straight points, including five by Fazekas for a 44-22 lead. EIU didn’t score a point in the final four-plus minutes of the first half.
“We held them down to 31 percent and we were one make away from shooting 50 percent,” Fox said. “That’s probably the best half we’ve played in all facets of the game.”
Fazekas scored seven quick points and Charlo added another trey and two free throws, helping the Wolf Pack build their biggest lead of the game, 65-29, with 12:42 still left and extinguishing the Panthers for good.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.