Nevada uses strong second half for victory
Appeal Sports Editor
RENO – For the second consecutive game, Nevada put an opponent away with a big run to start the second half.
The 10th-ranked Wolf Pack outscored Northern Iowa 22-4 in the first six-plus minutes of the second half en route to a 79-64 win in the fifth annual ESPNU BracketBuster game Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 10,586 fans at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 24-2, and joins Wisconsin as the only teams in the country with two losses. Northern Iowa, which has now lost eight of its last nine, dropped to 16-12 overall.
“We started executing offensively and defended a little better,” Nevada All-American Nick Fazekas said. “We had a little more intensity. We didn’t play bad in the second half, they just played with us.”
“We were feeling each other out in the second half,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “The second half we had a greater understanding of what kind of game it was and adjusted accordingly.”
Nevada shot 62.5 in the second half, scoring on nine straight possessions during the aforementioned surge, and 3-point shooting played a big role.
Nevada went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes, and Kyle Shiloh, who went 0-for-4 in the first half, hit three 3-pointers en route to a 16-point second half, and Denis Ikovlev (9 points) added one, enabling the Wolf Pack to wipe out a 33-32 Northern Iowa lead.
Fazekas (17 points) opened the second half with a floater from the baseline, and following misses by Grant Stout on the next two possessions, Shiloh and Ikovlev knocked in 3-pointers. Sessions (14 points) made it 10 straight points with two free throws to make it 42-33.
Eric Coleman, who scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds, broke the drought with 17:10 left. However, a lay-up by Sessions, a tip by JaVale McGee and a tip by Sessions made it 48-35.
Coleman ended the six-point run with two free throws, but Shiloh lofted in back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 54-37 with 13:43 remaining. It was Shiloh’s third straight double-digit scoring game, and he’s averaging 16.6 in that stretch. He’s shooting 17-for-32 from the floor in that span, including 8-for-15 from beyond the arc.
“Kyle was terrific tonight,” said Fox, who credited good ball movement for Nevada’s long-distance success. “He’s been playing very well at both ends.
“I was very pleased with the unselfish play tonight. We shared the ball, and it helps that Nick is drawing attention inside.”
NIU coach Ben Jacobson said that Nevada’s offensive versatility made things difficult for his team.
“The difference between the first half and the second half is that Nevada came out and made shots,” Jacobson said. “They scored inside and at the 3-point line. I bet four or five different players scored (in that big surge). We also didn’t do a good enough job on defense.
“Nevada has too many offensive weapons. Since we don’t see them every day in league, you don’t realize just how good their offense really is. Nevada is ranked 10th in the nation for a reason. Nevada is the best (team) we’ve played.”
Northern Iowa cut the lead to 54-41 with a bucket by Coleman and two free throws by Stout, but Nevada roared back with a 14-7 run to extend its lead to 71-50 as Marcelus Kemp had a three-point play and two free throws, Shiloh drained another 3-pointer and a lay-up, and Fazekas finished the run with a lay-up.
Fazekas was limited to nine shots by Northern Iowa, but he went 5-for-9 and knocked down all seven of his free-throw attempts.
“We came in wanting to do two things (with Fazekas),” Jacobson said. “The first thing we wanted to do was take it at him offensively, and not worry if he blocks a shot or two. Maybe he’ll pick up a foul or two and have to sit.
“The other thing we wanted to push him off the block. The first half we were very successful. We did make things tougher for Nick. Nick doesn’t mind when other guys score more than he does. You could see that on tape. He’s very comfortable taking eight or nine shots as long as the team is doing well and winning. He enjoys winning basketball games.”
Nevada went 0-for-3 to start the game, but hit seven of its next nine shots to build its biggest lead of the half, 17-9, with 12:38 left. Kemp led the way with eight, including two 3-pointers.
The game was tied nine times, and the Panthers took a 33-32 lead when Jared Josten knocked down two free throws with 1 second left. Nevada went the final 4:23 without a field goal, and only had three Kemp free throws in that stretch.
What was impressive about the Panthers’ first half is that Coleman and Stout sat out the final 7:07 of the half with two fouls apiece. The Panthers got some solid play from 7-1 Jordan Eglseder, who had six of his career-high 11 points in the first half.
“We felt coming out (in the second half) that we could play down to the wire,” Jacobson said.
That confidence was dashed early in the second half.