Nevada men roll to victory
RENO – After back-to-back losses last week, Nevada was in need of a blowout win. Florida Atlantic was only too happy to oblige.
With sophomore forward Nick Fazekas scoring 22 points in 23 minutes, and the defense holding Florida Atlantic to a putrid 24.6 shooting percentage, the Wolf Pack rolled to an easy 60-46 victory in the first round of the Dodge Holiday Classic Friday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The win moved Nevada, 5-3, into tonight’s championship game at 7:05 against Eastern Illinois, a 56-53 winner over Idaho State. Florida Atlantic plays Idaho State at 5 p.m. in the consolation game.
The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Nine of Nevada’s 10 players played at least 17 minutes, as subs played extensive minutes in both halves.
“It’s good for us a little bit (to have a game like that) after two losses,” senior center Kevinn Pinkney said. “I’m not saying they’re a bad team, but I wish we played a team that was a little better so to speak. Overall, it was a great win for us.”
And, the win showed just how resilient Nevada can be after its 18-game home winning streak was snapped by UOP last weekend.
“I don’t think we responded well after the Toledo loss,” first-year head coach Mark Fox said. “Since the UOP game we’ve gotten much better. Life is about how you respond to adversity, period.
“The first half I was a little disappointed on how we guarded one player (Mike Bell). He can shoot the three and we knew that. We didn’t carry over a lot of what we practiced.”
After Nevada bolted to a 20-7 lead in the first nine-plus minutes of the game thanks to eight points by Fazekas, the 6-foot-9 Bell started to fill it up from the outside. He drained three trays and had a putback dunk in a span of 5 minutes 33 seconds to cut Nevada’s lead to 28-20 with 4:42 remaining. An 8-2 run by Nevada upped the lead to 36-22 before Bell ended the half with another three-pointer.
The game might have been closer in the first half had Florida Atlantic been able to convert offensively. Bell went 6 for 8 from the floor, but the rest of the team went 3 for 25.
Nevada did a tremendous job on Bell in the second half, as both Pinkney and Mo Charlo took turns making his life miserable. Bell was only 1-for-7 from the field over the final 20 minutes. All told, Bell was 7 for 15 and the rest of the team was 8-for-46. That won’t get it done.
“I said at halftime they would focus more on Mike, and that you all (rest of team) would have to put the ball in the basket,” Florida Atlantic coach Sidney Green said. “They were a lot more aggressive (on Bell). They were bumping and grinding him in the post. They weren’t giving him easy looks.”
“He’s an extremely gifted player,” Pinkney said. “He’s out there looking to get his. We did a great job of holding his points down.”
The basket seemed to have a lid on it after Florida Atlantic cut the lead to 40-32 with 16:33 remaining in the game following Pierre Tucker’s three-pointer. Nevada outscored Florida Atlantic 13-0 over the next 4:58 to stretch its lead to 53-32 with 11:35 left. Jermaine Washington and Fazekas had two buckets apiece and Charlo contributed a slam.
“Our defense keyed the whole thing,” Fox said.
“Again, I give credit to Nevada,” Green said. “They made their shots. Our execution wasn’t as strong as it should have been. We had an 11-minute drought (actually five minutes) where we couldn’t find the basket. Nevada also did a good job on Quinton Young (1-for-8, 3 points).”
Fazekas, who was 9-for-11 shooting, impressed Green, a former NBA first-round draft pick.
“Fazekas was outstanding,” Green said. “That’s why he’s a prospective NBA player. He carried them. He’s talented. He’s long, and our guys couldn’t shoot over him.”
After Nevada’s big run, the rest of the game turned into garbage time. Nevada played the 6-7 Charlo at point guard while freshman Ramon Sessions and sophomore Kyle Shiloh rested.
“I wanted to get him some experience at the point,” Fox said. “There may be a time when we have to play him some there, and I want him to get a little comfortable.”
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.