Nevada men’s basketball falls to Pacific
Appeal Sports Writer
STOCKTON, Calif. – One minute Nevada seemed to be on an unstoppable roll, and in the next breath, the basket had a lid on it.
Pacific outscored Nevada 15-0 in a span of 7 minutes 21 seconds of the second half, and sent the Pack, despite a last-minute rally, to a 70-66 non-conference basketball loss Saturday night before a crowd of 3,891 at the Spanos Center.
The loss was Nevada’s third straight and dropped the Pack to 2-4 overall, though Nevada hadn’t lost three straight since the 2000-01 season. Three of the losses have been on the road.
“It’s a little rough,” Nevada senior Demarshay Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of away games to start the season.
“We have to figure out where we’re supposed to be offensively; where the shooters are supposed to take shots from. We’re learning how to compete at the defensive end.”
Obviously this is a team that can use a home game in the worst way, and starting next Saturday, the Pack will play four home games in 11 days. It’s certainly a chance to get healthy.
“We like playing at Lawlor,” sophomore guard Brandon Fields said. “There is a lot of energy there. That should help us out.”
‘They are very resilient,” Fox said of his team. “They understand there are going to be bumps in the road.”
That was one huge bump Nevada hit in the second half.
Pacific had scored seven straight points to take a 52-44 lead with 14:28 left in the game, only to see Nevada roar back with a 12-2 surge in the next five-plus minutes to grab a 56-54 lead, their first since midway in the first half.
JaVale McGee (13 points, 6 rebounds) started the surge with a lay-up and then Fields stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a slam dunk. Johnson scored on a lay-up to cut the deficit to 52-50.
Anthony Brown muscled in a lay-up, and after three straight Pacific turnovers, Fields and Marcelus Kemp (20 points, 12 rebounds) delivered 3-point field goals on back-to-back possessions for a 56-54 lead.
Enter the dreaded drought, which saw Nevada go 0-for-9, miss the front end of bonus free-throw situations twice and turn the ball over once on a shot-clock violation.
“That was a huge drought,” Fox said. “We couldn’t get a ball to drop. I thought we had good looks at the basket. They made an attempt to surround JaVale and did an effective job.”
“We tried to put more bodies on him,” Pacific coach Bob Thomason said. “They run so much stuff. We tried to be more aggressive.”
And, unfortunately for the Pack, it wasn’t able to get the job done at the defensive end, either.
Chad Troyer (19 points) hit a jump shot, Brown dropped in two free throws, Michael Nunnally scored on back-to-back putbacks, Joe Ford dropped in three free throws and Steffan Johnson (13 points) dropped in a basket and two free throws to make it 69-56 with 1:04 left.
Thomason felt that offensive rebounding was big, especially in the second half when the Tigers ended up with 12 second-chance points. That’s huge in a four-point game.
“Offensive rebounds were the key,” said Thomason, whose team outrebounded Nevada 38-36. “We got real aggressive. (Michael) Nunnally, Anthony Brown and Joe Ford did a great job. They put balls in or kept balls alive.”
That’s when Nevada made its last push. Armon Johnson, who was 1 for 11, scored two straight to make it 69-60. Pacific missed four straight free throws and turned the ball over, allowing Nevada to score six straight and cut the lead to 69-66 with 2.4 left to cap a 10-0 run.
The first half was a microcosm of the Pack’s season to date. Nevada shot a respectable 43.8 from the floor, but couldn’t get enough stops defensively against the Tigers, who knocked down 13 of 25 from the field for 52 percent.
“They got in a rhythm,” Fox said. “We changed our defense a couple of times.”
The game was tied three times in the first 10 minutes at 12, 14 and 18, the latter coming when McGee knocked down a jump shot from the top of the key with 9:51 left.
Pacific took control at that point, scoring 11 of the next 13 points for a 29-20 lead, its biggest margin of the half.
Brown knocked down two free throws at the 9:42 mark. After a David Ellis miss, Steffan Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 23-18, and after Kemp missed, Troyer knocked down his third 3-pointer of the half for an eight-point lead.
Kemp drew a foul and drained both foul shots. A free throw by Brown and two by Sam Willard made it 29-20.
Nevada stayed in the game thanks to the outside shooting of Brandon Fields (11 in the half), who knocked down two 3-point baskets to help slice the margin to 38-34 with 2:40 left. Kemp scored five straight in the final 38.4 to make it 40-39 at the half. The last bucket was a 30-footer off an inbound pass from Ellis, as Pacific didn’t contest the pass at all.
“I’m getting open shots and knocking them down when I get the chance,” Fields said. “I was in a good rhythm.”
“Brandon shot the ball well in the first half,” Fox said. “He had a couple open looks in the second half … I haven’t done a very good job getting him to grow offensively.”
This is a young team, and with inexperience comes mistakes which can and have led to losses.