Nevada wins rematch with Central Florida | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada wins rematch with Central Florida

Nevada wins rematch with Central Florida

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – When you look for keys in Nevada’s third straight victory, the Pack’s rebounding and free-throw differential jump out at you.

Nevada had a 47-28 rebound advantage over Central Florida, including a 13-7 edge on the offensive glass which it parlayed into 14 points, which is huge in a 12-point game. The Pack also went 31-for-41 at the line compared to just 15-for-19 for UCF. The Pack, led by JaVale McGee and Marcelus Kemp at the free-throw stripe, knocked down its last 14 free throws in the final two-plus minutes.

It all added up to an 86-74 non-conference victory before a crowd of 7,180 Sunday at Lawlor Events Center, as Nevada avenged its season-opening loss to the Golden Knights and improved to 5-4 overall.

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Kemp led Nevada with 24 points, Brandon Fields added a career-high 22, McGee scored 15 and a career-high 18 rebounds, and Demarshay Johnson chipped in 11 points.

“Those are two critical stat categories,” UCF coach Kirk Speraw said, referring to the rebounding and free throws. “It was a hard-fought game. I think Nevada is going to be a a good team. They will continue to improve. Their guards will continue to get better.”

Nevada’s entire team continues to make progress, and that’s what coach Mark Fox wants to see.

“We’re getting better – a little better each week,” Fox said. “We’re growing slowly, but I’ll take the win. We made some mental mistakes. It was a good win and we beat a good team. It was a challenging week for us (with exams). Winning (on the court) is secondary. We need to win in exams. (Monday) is a big day for us.”

Nevada led 36-34 entering the second half and built the lead to 49-41 with 14 minutes, 40 seconds remaining.

That’s when Central Florida, or rather Jermaine Taylor, exploded.

The Golden Knights went on a 13-4 run to take a 54-53 lead with 10:53 remaining, and Taylor scored 11 of his game-high 27 in that span, nine coming on a trio of 3-pointers.

“He’s a great player, and he lit us up like a Christmas tree in the second half,” Fox said. “Obviously we didn’t do a good job defending the 3-point line in the second half. They had seven threes in the second half and none in the first half.”

Nevada scored 12 of the next 17 points for a 65-59 lead, and that’s when Kemp started to find the range, knocking down a 3-pointer at the end of the surge.

The Golden Knights made it 65-64 with 5:21 left on a putback by Kenrick Zondervan and another 3-pointer by Taylor.

Kemp scored seven of the game’s next 11 points, as Nevada went on a 9-2 run for a 74-66 lead with 2:17 to go. UCF closed to 78-73 with 1:01 left, but Kemp knocked down four free throws – as did McGee – to stifle any UCF comeback hopes.

“We practice free throws everyday,” Kemp said. “We should be better working on it every day. We made our free throws down the stretch and got the win.”

While Nevada finished with a rush, it started the game on a slow note.

Central Florida scored eight of the first 10 points to open the game, but a 12-2 run fueled by two 3-pointers by Fields enabled Nevada to open a 25-18 lead with 9:07 left in the half.

Fields had a sensational first half with 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor, including 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.

A basket in transition by Armon Johnson gave the Pack its biggest lead at 32-21 with 6:17 left, but the Golden Knights ran off the next eight points to make it 32-29 thanks to a trapping defense that Nevada didn’t handle well.

Tony Davis started the surge with a pull-up jump shot from the left baseline, Dave Noel (20 points) and Taylor made two free throws apiece and Taylor Young scored on a layup off a nice touch pass.

“Their press was effective and we made some real fundamental mistakes,” Fox said. “Two of the possessions we had people in the wrong place. We handled it much better in the second half. Their press is what allowed them to get back into the game in the first half.”

McGee jump-started the Pack in the opening seconds of the second half when he made a steal and drove the length of the floor for a layup. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw for a 39-34 lead. Fields drained one from long range to boost the lead to eight, 42-34.

After two free throws by Noel, Demarshay Johnson scored two buckets and a free throw to make it 47-39.

That set the stage for a wild second half, which saw Nevada rack up a season-high 50 points and shoot 56.5 percent from the floor.

“There are too many things we didn’t handle correctly,” Speraw said. “We talked it out during halftime and never made the adjustments.”

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281