Nevada men’s hoops beats Portland
The University of Nevada Wolf Pack had a strong first half and held off a late charge by the University of Portland Pilots to win 88-79 in front of 5,254 fans at the Lawlor Events Center on Saturday night.
The Pack was led by sophomore guard Kirk Snyder, who had a career-high 24 points along with 11 rebounds, and senior guard Terrance Green, who came off the bench to score a season-high 23 points.
Despite his strong offensive output, Snyder pointed to the team’s committment to defense as the key to the victory.
“We have a ton of guys who can score,” he said. “We’re placing more of an emphasis on defense, and that was the difference tonight. We’re making defense fun.”
Fellow guard Garry Hill-Thomas agreed with Snyder’s assessment.
“When we don’t play defense or rebound, we don’t do so well,” Hill-Thomas said. “We know that (defense) is the reason why we’ve been losing.”
The Pack used this philosophy of focusing on defense well in the first half, holding the Pilots to 32 percent from the field. The team also rebounded well, earning a 23-15 edge.
Although the emphasis was on defense, the team still excelled on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Nevada jumped out to a quick 24-13 lead, largely behind the play of junior guard Todd Okeson, who hit three three-pointers in the first four minutes of the game. Green also produced a major spark, scoring 15 first half points in only 10 minutes of playing time.
When the half was over, the Pack had shot more than 50 percent from the field and beyond the arch, and had built a 46-28 lead.
Going into the locker room, Nevada coach Trent Johnson praised his team for its defense and asked it for 20 minutes more.
However, that did not happen.
The Pack’s strong defense from the first half evaporated, and the Pilots slowly chipped away at the Pack’s lead with solid shooting to close the game to within 10 points with a minute left. Portland was led by junior guard Casey Frandsen, who had 18 points.
“The second half I think some of us started going to Christmas break a little early,” Johnson said of his team’s defense. “I think our group will have a problem putting people away.
“I think we really defended with a passion (in the first half). Our whole thing is to be consistent. Tonight we played 20 minutes good (defense) and 20 minutes bad.”