Nevada men rout Hawai’i
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nick Fazekas doesn’t know why he plays so well against Hawai’i and he doesn’t care.
“I don’t think it’s a matchup thing,” said Fazekas, who moved into sixth-place on the all-time scoring list with 1,507 points. “I just tend to play well versus Hawai’i.”
And how. Fazekas followed up his 37-point 15-rebound effort back on Jan. 5 with 19 points and 17 rebounds to help Nevada pound Hawai’i 73-55 Saturday night before 10,378 at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 15-5 overall and 5-3 in the Western Athletic Conference, moving up to third place. Hawai’i dropped to 4-3 and 10-7.
As always, Hawai’i coach Riley Wallace praised Nevada’s 6-11 forward, who turned in his ninth double-double of the season and 32nd in his career.
“We had a bunch of no-shows,” he said. “Fazekas had 17 of their 40 rebounds tonight and he had 18 (actually 15) at our place. He can’t jump, he’s slow and he doesn’t run well. He’s got a Ph.D. in basketball. He always shows up and gets his numbers. He finds ways to get open and he gets where he needs to be.
“That was just a good old butt kicking. We don’t get those very often. My team didn’t show up and Nevada’s did. I’m embarrassed for my team and myself. I guess we stirred Nevada up when we beat them over there and made them think we’re better than we were.”
It may sound like Fazekas was a one-man demolition derby. Far from it. Marcelus Kemp scored 21 and Mo Charlo added 10. Ramon Sessions added eight and Kyle Shiloh scored seven, ending his streak of double-figure games at five.
It’s the type of balance that Nevada coach Mark Fox loves to see. In fact, the second-year coach admitted that this was one of the most complete games that the Pack have played this season.
“We have to have three or four guys score the ball to be good,” Fox said. “We can’t have a 1-man team.
“We were solid in all three areas (execution, defense and rebounding). To beat a good basketball team you have to do it. There have been times where we’ve been good in two areas and times we’ve been good in one area. We have not done that a lot this year. This was one of our most complete games.”
Hawai’i didn’t even reach the 50-point mark until there was less than two minutes left in the game, and Nevada enjoyed a 40-24 advantage on the boards, which led to 22 second-chance points, including a couple by Charlo.
“We defended better,” Fox said, explaining the rebound differential. “Against Boise State, we didn’t defend well. There weren’t a lot of missed shots. There were more opportunities to rebound tonight.”
“We’re not a good rebounding team,” Wallace admitted. “We’re not a good fundamental rebounding team. Big guys tend to just go get it (instead of blocking out). They have better hops than we do.”
Nevada, which shot 54.4 for the game, used a 56 percent effort from the field and a 15-2 run to take a 36-23 lead at halftime.
Hawai’i nearly wiped out Nevada’s early 21-11 lead by scoring eight straight points in a 2 minute 15 second span. Freshman Hiram Thompson started the surge, Matt Lojeski drained two long-distance shots and then Julian Sensley converted a Nevada turnover into a basket.
Sensley, Hawai’i’s leading scorer at 16.9 per game, was held to 11 points. Kemp and Charlo were the main defenders on him.
“He’s a terrific player,” Charlo said. “We tried to challenge every shot he shoots. We played hard every possession. That’s what we had to do tonight.”
Shortly after Sensley’s basket, the game dramatically turned in Nevada’s favor.
Kemp knocked down consecutive 3-point field goals, and Nevada was off and running.
“He took us out of it,” Wallace said.
Chris Botez (10 points) tipped in a missed shot to cut Nevada’s lead to 27-21. But a 9-0 run by Nevada thanks to two baskets by Sessions and three free throws by Fazekas, built the lead to 15 points. Sessions’ eight first-half points was one shy of his season best.
“He’s finally feeling comfortable shooting the ball,” Fox said. “It will take him a long time to get back to himself.”
Whatever momentum Nevada built in the final five minutes of the first half vanished in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half when the Rainbow Warriors ripped off six straight points, trimming the lead to 36-29. Baskets by Kemp and Fazekas got the lead back to double digits, 40-29.
Hawai’i briefly got the lead back down to eight, but a 16-4 run over the next eight minutes enabled the Pack to open a 59-38 lead. Fazekas had six straight Nevada points and Charlo scored four.
Fazekas said it was nice to see his teammates step up.
“It helps when my teammates get going,” Fazekas said. “It opens up both the inside and outside.
“We’ve played better than this. We’re trying to get the momentum we got from Boise. We played pretty well I thought.”