Nevada men’s basketball falls to UNLV
Appeal Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS – Not enough stops. Too many turnovers.
Nevada coach Mark Fox was able to summarize Saturday’s 79-67 nonconference basketball loss to in-state rival UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center in those few words.
The loss dropped Nevada to 2-2 in the young season, and the Pack has just a couple of days to rebound and get ready for California Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
“You need a game like this to learn from,” Fox said. “As inexperienced as we are, we’re going to be up and down, especially with three of the first four games on the road. We have to learn from the experience and get better.
“We turned the ball over too many times to win a tough game on the road against a good team. Our defense was not very good the second half, especially at the start of the half. We were lethargic.”
Nevada turned the ball over 19 times which led to 30 UNLV points, as JaVale McGee and point guard Armon Johnson (15 points) each turned the ball over four times. The Runnin’ Rebels, 4-1, also shot 53.3 percent in the second half, as their athleticism and quickness gave the Pack fits.
“We’ve always been known for our defense,” said junior guard Wink Adams, who had 17 points and got back-to-back baskets at a critical juncture in the second half. “That’s our identity. We’re not a big team. We just try to force turnovers and wear a team down.
“I thought we were more physical down low in the second half. Their big guys did what they wanted to in the first half. We made them work a lot harder I think underneath in the second half.”
Nevada had cut the lead to 32-31 at the half on a putback by Armon Johnson, but the Rebels quickly opened up a 39-32 lead when Matt Shaw worked his way inside for an offensive rebound, put the ball back in and was fouled by Marcelus Kemp. The ensuing free throw made it 35-31.
Corey Bailey converted a Brandon Fields turnover into a basket, and after Demarshay Johnson drained a free throw, Curtis Terry capped the mini 7-1 run with a lay-up to make it 39-32.
Nevada made a nice little run, trimming the lead to 46-43, and McGee had a putback, a slam dunk and a free throw in the surge. McGee, despite making a few mistakes, had a productive night with the first double-double of his career with 20 points and 13 rebounds in just 28 minutes.
“JaVale played well,” Fox said. “He played hard and played consistent.”
That run was a microcosm of the second half. Nevada made several nice surges, but never got over the hump.
“We couldn’t get enough stops; couldn’t string enough good plays together,” Fox said.
Adams, who led UNLV with 17 points, stole the ball from Johnson and turned it into a lay-up, and then Demarshay Johnson turned the ball over resulting in a Bailey 3-pointer and a 51-43 lead.
Over the next three minutes, UNLV kept the lead at eight. The Rebels did stretch it to a then game-high 10 when McGee had a ball stolen by Adams and then Terry collected a loose ball that Fields bounced off his leg and fed Adams for a lay-up which turned into a three-point play and a 67-57 lead with 5:06 left in the contest. Nevada didn’t get any closer than five points the rest of the way.
The first half was hotly contested as six ties would suggest, as no more than six points separated either team, and Nevada trailed 32-31 at the half.
The Pack was hindered by foul trouble, as Kemp was limited to 11 minutes after picking up two fouls. McGee scored 11 first-half points, but also picked up two fouls and played just 11 minutes.
“That hurt us,” Fox said. “I tried to get him back in there a couple of times. The foul trouble was certainly frustrating.”
Kemp had trouble scoring, period, connecting on just 4-for-13 of his field goal attempts.
“We just tried to pressure him,” Rene Rougeau said. “We were trying to not to let him get open looks, and the best way to do that is not let him have the ball.”
“We did a good job on him,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “We knew where he was at all times.”
Neither team shot exceptionally well from the field. Nevada connected on 43 percent of its shots and UNLV shot 34.4 percent. The Rebels played the same tough defense that limited the Pack to 49 points last year, playing excellent perimeter defense.
“They scouted us well,” Kemp said. “It was tough to get anything started.”
Nevada had two six-point runs in the first half, while UNLV put together an 8-0 run. Other than that, the in-state rivals slugged it out for the last 14 minutes of the opening half.
UNLV never trailed after Joe Darger’s 3-pointer snapped a 29-all tie with 31 seconds left in the half.
“We needed this badly,” said Kruger, whose team lost by 20 to Louisville on Wednesday night.