Nevada struggles in loss against Pacific
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
RENO ” For whatever reason, Pacific just seems to have Nevada’s number.
The Wolf Pack lost for the fourth time in six years, dropping a 67-59 decision to the Tigers Wednesday night in a nonconference basketball game before a crowd of 6,636 at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada dropped to 2-2 while Pacific improved to 2-1.
Nevada coach Mark Fox said he couldn’t take anything positive from the disappointing loss.
“Zero,” he said. “We got our butts beat. We didn’t defend, we didn’t rebound. They’re young and they’ll get over it. I share in the responsibility. I didn’t come up with a plan to get us stops.
“We made poor decisions and had poor shot selection. It all comes back to defense. Give Pacific credit. They played a good second half and shot the ball (well). Our defense failed us.”
The eight-point win was the biggest in the past six years. Pacific coach Bob Thomason, however, shrugged off any notion that his team owned Nevada.
“I don’t know about that,” he said, taking time to exchange a few words with Fox. “I’m just happy to get the win.
“(Bryan) LeDuc got hot in the second half and Terrell (Smith) played great the whole game. They missed some free throws down the stretch which helped.”
The Tigers shot 52 percent in the second half, outscoring Nevada 44-37. LeDuc scored 16 of his career-high 23 in the final 20 minutes, taking advantage of some defensive lapses by the Wolf Pack. LeDuc, who was a 28 percent 3-point shooter a year ago, went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
“We were trapping the ball and we didn’t rotate quick enough,” Fox said. “You have to make two efforts on the play not just one, and he (LeDuc) made us pay.”
LeDuc, who had seven points in the first half, led a 10-0 Pacific surge to spark the Tigers to a 37-30 lead with 12:36 left in the game.
His 3-pointer tied the game at 30, and following a Nevada turnover, he was fouled by Malik Cooke (13 points, 7 rebounds) on a breakaway and drained two free throws. After Smith drained a 3-pointer from the left corner, James Doran scored on a layup to complete the surge.
The teams traded baskets for the next two-plus minutes. Former Galena star Luke Babbitt, who led Nevada with 19 points and nine rebounds, made a jump shot to make it 44-38.
A 3-pointer by Doran, a short hook by Anthony Brown (10 points) and another bucket by LeDuc made it a 13-point game, 51-38, with 8:27 left.
Nevada didn’t go away, as Armon Johnson, who was playing despite strep throat, drained a runner in the lane, Cooke hit from close range and Joey Shaw took a pass from Johnson and dunked to trim the lead to seven, 51-44.
After a timeout, Pacific hiked its lead to 55-46 on a free throw by Brown and a 3-pointer by Smith.
Nevada would get close, but playing uphill much of the half took its toll on the young team, and Pacific always seemed to have an answer for any Nevada rally.
“It was real frustrating,” Babbitt said. “We couldn’t get stops when we needed to. It shows we have a lot to work on.”
While scoring wasn’t a problem in the second half, it certainly was in the first 20 minutes.
The teams shot a combined 36 percent from the floor, including 25 percent from beyond the 3-point line and turned the ball over 19 times. A banked 3-pointer by LeDuc gave the Tigers a 23-22 lead at the half.
“Anytime you don’t shoot great it’s not going to look real good,” Thomason said. “I knew how tough it was going to be. The second half we only had three turnovers. They hurt us on the offensive boards in the first half.”
Cooke’s putback with a minute left in the half gave Nevada a 22-20 lead, but LeDuc answered back with a 3-pointer.
Shaw got hot early in the second half, scoring Nevada’s first six points and vaulting the Pack to a 28-26 lead. Johnson made it a three-point game, 30-27, with 15:07 left, setting the stage for LeDuc’s aforementioned flurry.