Nevada rolls past Ragin’ Cajuns
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nick Fazekas got mad and then even.
Louisiana Lafayette’s Michael Southall slammed home a dunk over Fazekas with 13:11 left in the game, and then made the mistake of doing a little trash talking which was dumb considering his team trailed by 15 points at the time.
Fazekas accepted the challenge with a 3-pointer at the other end on the ensuing possession, and his 16-second half points sparked 20th-ranked Nevada to a 65-58 nonconference win over the Ragin’ Cajuns before a crowd of 8,571 Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada, 10-1, concludes its preconference schedule Saturday at 4:05 p.m. in Moraga, Calif., against Saint Mary’s College.
Fazekas, who finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, said that Southall’s antics might have fired him up.
“Maybe a little bit,” said Fazekas, who was 6 for 7 from the field, including 3 for 4 from beyond the arc over the final 20 minutes. “He (Southall) got me so deep. I had to show I could do it at the other end.”
“Nick’s tougher than people give him credit for,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “He’s not going to win any Sumo wrestling matches. We traded three for two. He hasn’t been pleased with his shooting. He did some extra work and it paid off. He felt more confident shooting the ball.”
Fazekas’ trey made it 46-28, sparking Nevada’s 19-4 run in the first 8 minutes 28 seconds of the half. The 6-11 forward knocked in two more 3-pointers in the next three minutes to stretch the lead to 54-32, the Pack’s biggest lead of the contest with 9:46 left.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Mo Barksdale and J.T. Fields trimmed the lead to 15 with 6:56 left. Dwayne Mitchell (20 points, 10 rebounds), who had been held in check for most of the game by Mo Charlo and Kyle Shiloh, scored on a putback and a slam to get the deficit down to 12. Louisiana-Lafayette trimmed the lead to single digits, 62-54, on Mitchell’s lean in with 43.6 left.
Nevada made the game closer than it should have because of its inability to make free throws. The Pack were a putrid 4 for 11 down the stretch.
“We played extremely well for 30 minutes,” Fox said. “We got the big lead and quit defending, and they threw in some 3s. We didn’t play great the last three or four minutes. I thought we played with the effort we were supposed to. I was very pleased.
“I’m not frustrated (about not putting them away). We’re still trying to get better. We got comfortable and you can’t do that. I hoped we learned a lesson tonight.”
Robert Lee, who watched his team fall to 3-7, said his team’s inability to defend at the outset of the second half and Southall’s fouling out with 6:43 left hurt.
“We didn’t defend well enough and we gave them a couple of second-chance opportunities, and then Fazekas hit a couple of 3s. It (the lead) went from six to 13 or 14 points. It got us out of rhythm.
“Fazekas presents match-up problems. He can go out on the perimeter and not many players can do that. He’s not tough physically, and we were able to take advantage of that in the first half. He is a really great player.”
Fazekas wasn’t a factor in the opening half, sinking just 2 for 7 from the floor. In fact the whole team struggled, going 9 for 33. Nevada finished at 36.1 from the field, the second straight game it has shot less than 40 percent from the field.
Nevada went 3 for its first 18 in the first nine minutes and only trailed 12-10. The Pack rebounded, going on an 11-0 run to take a 17-12 lead.
Demarshay Johnson (8 points) started the surge with a dunk, Fazekas hit two free throws and then Marcelus Kemp knocked in a 3-pointer for a 13-12 lead. Charlo scored on a layup and Kemp scored again to make it 17-12 with 8:34 left.
Kemp finished with 12 points, and played well overall. He did draw Fox’s ire with 2:17 when he took a quick shot when Fox wanted a play run.
“Marcelus gave us a spark,” Fox said. “He really gave the team a lift.”
The Cajuns sliced the deficit to 24-22 with 3:23 remaining, but went scoreless the rest of the half. Nevada scored the last four points of the half for a 28-22 halftime lead.
“The first half we followed our game plan,” Lee said. “We slowed the tempo down, which we really don’t like to do. We just couldn’t put in shots. The second half the game plan got away from us. Fazekas made some crucial shots and the game got spaced out.”
Southall, who went 5 for 8 from the floor and scored 10 first-half points, wasn’t a factor in the second half. He picked up his third foul with 19:33 left in the game, and a minute later was whistled for his fourth foul.
Southall went to the bench, and Charlo drove the baseline and made an acrobatic dunk to make it 35-24. Barksdale made it 35-26, but a putback and free throw by Johnson, a 3-pointer by Denis Ikovlev and a baseline jump shot by David Ellis made it a 17-point game, and Southall was rushed back into the game.
“I had no choice,” Lee said. “If we go down by 30 it wouldn’t have made a difference. I rolled the dice. J.T. (Fields) started making some shots.”
Southall hung around for several more minutes, fouling out with 6:43 left and Nevada leading 57-41.
“I feel we’re not where we want to be,” Fazekas said. “We’re not playing that well, but we’re finding ways to win, and that’s the bottom line.”