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Nevada men’s hoops routs UC Davis

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal News Service

RENO – After beating nationally ranked Kansas before the holidays, University of Nevada was ripe for a letdown.

The Wolf Pack dispelled that notion in a hurry, bolting to a quick 14-point lead and shooting 53 percent from the floor en route to an easy 84-62 non-conference basketball win over Division II UC Davis Saturday night before a crowd of 6,794 at Lawlor Events Center.

The win was Nevada’s sixth against three losses, and gives the Wolf Pack a four-game win streak entering next Saturday’s Western Athletic Conference opener at San Jose State.

“We played OK,” Nevada coach Trent Johnson said. “We worked a lot of different combinations. It’s hard to come back after the emotional victory they had the other day. It would have been easy to be full of ourselves.

“We stayed grounded and humbled. For us to get better we have to mature as a basketball team. That showed in their approach to this basketball game.”

Nevada wasn’t about to dig itself an early hole as it did in road losses to Portland and the University of the Pacific.

“I think we came out like we’re supposed to come out,” senior center Sean Paul said after his 11-point, five-rebound effort. “We attacked them. We executed well and played good defense.”

Todd Okeson (8 points) and Kirk Snyder (20 points) jump-started the Nevada offense with three-pointers on the first two possessions of the game. Davis’ Gus Argenal answered back with a trey of his own, but that would be the Aggies’ only score over the next three minutes.

A 13-2 run over the next five minutes gave Nevada a 19-5 advantage. Kevinn Pinkney started the surge with a jump shot from the left baseline, and then he followed nearly two minutes later with a shot from close range. Garry Hill-Thomas converted a Davis error into a three-point play at the other end to make it 13-3.

Ryan Moore (18 points) broke the seven-point run with a layup, and Nevada scored the next six points on a tip-in by Snyder, a shot from the left baseline by Hill-Thomas and a floater by Kyle Shiloh to make it 19-5 with 13:18 left in the half.

The Aggies scored 15 of the next 17 points to close to 21-19 with 6:43 left. Eleven of those points came against Nevada’s second unit. Rommel Marentez scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in that span, as his quickness off the dribble caused Nevada some problems.

“The second group came out and played sluggish at the defensive end,” said freshman forward-center Nick Fazekas, who finished with nine points and two rebounds in 23 minutes.

Order was restored when the first unit returned to the court. Nevada, thanks to its superior athleticism and height advantage, closed out the half with a 24-10 run en route to a 42-29 advantage. Snyder tacked on 12 more points, including back-to-back threes that got Nevada’s lead back to double digits (32-21) with 4:41 left.

Davis’ Anthony Esparza knocked down a three-pointer to open the second half, but Nevada outscored the Aggies 15-0 over the next five-plus minutes to blow the game open and take a 57-32 lead with 12:52 left. Paul led the surge with six points, including a nice three-point play to start the surge.

Paul admitted after the game he dislikes playing smaller teams like Davis.

“I don’t like playing against smaller players,” he said. “I like playing against bigger guys that I can bang around a little.”

Five of Nevada’s six wins have been at home, and the Wolf Pack must do a better job on the road if it has any intention of making the NCAA Tournament in March.

“We have to play with a little more intensity,” Fazekas. “In the road games (so far) we’ve come out slow and got way behind.”

“We’re going to do what we always do,” Johnson said. “It’s no secret. We have to be tougher, take care of the ball better and defend a little more.”

Notes: Nevada enjoyed a huge 40-20 edge on the boards, led by Jermaine Washington’s eight takedowns. Snyder and Pinkney added seven each … Nevada enjoyed a 36-14 inside scoring edge … Forward-center Dean Browne made his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery back in late November. He played one minute and finished with an offensive rebound, an assist and turnover… Nevada has scored 70-plus points in its last eight games … The Aggies are currently making the transition from Division II to Division I. They will get their Division I certification for the 2007-08 school year.