Nevada’s second act calls for an encore
Appeal Sports Writer
FRESNO, Calif. – Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox lit into his team at halftime, challenging it to play a better second half.
The 11th-ranked Wolf Pack responded at both ends of the floor and turned a close game into a comfortable 81-68 victory over Fresno State Thursday night at the Save Mart Center before an announced crowd of 13,031.
Nick Fazekas scored a season high 33 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, and Kyle Shiloh recorded the first double-double of his career with 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
The win improved Nevada’s record to 22-2 overall and 10-1 in Western Athletic Conference play. Fresno State dropped to 16-8 and 5-6, respectively.
“I challenged the guys and they really responded by playing well to start the second half,” Fox said. “That allowed us to build a good lead. We put ourselves in a good position and we played solid down the stretch.
“It was a tough win. They are a good team, a very good team. We beat a good basketball team and a well-coached team tonight.”
Leading 40-38, the Wolf Pack went on a 23-7 run in the first 6 minutes 16 seconds of the second half to take a 63-45 lead, its biggest of the contest. Nevada did its damage in a variety of ways – putbacks, 3-pointers and buckets from close range.
Fazekas, who was 13-for-24 from the field, opened the final 20 minutes with a nice hook in the lane with 18:36 left, and followed that with a stickback 34 seconds later for a 44-38 lead.
The putback seemed to be a common theme for the Pack, who pulled down a season-best 56 rebounds, including 25 at the offensive end. Nevada has been struggling in rebounding, but Fox said a couple of physical practice days seemed to have paid off.
“They absolutely overwhelmed us on the boards,” Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. “It wasn’t just their bigs; it was their guards, everybody. We are not physical enough guys. Just look at our bodies and look at their bodies.”
Quinton Hosley scored off a nice pass by Dom McGuire, but Shiloh scored on a reverse lay-in to make it 46-40 with 17:17. Hosley scored on a putback to make it 46-42, but Nevada scored the next eight points for a 54-42 lead with 15:14 remaining.
Fazekas, who was 9-for-11 from the floor in the final half, started the surge with a three-point play off another putback. After a Fresno State misfire, Denis Ikovlev, who contributed 12 points and nine rebounds, knocked in a 3-pointer. Fazekas scored on hook to complete the mini surge.
Kevin Bell’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 54-45, but Shiloh drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, and Ikovlev added another try to make it 63-45. Shiloh equaled his season best with 18 points.
“It’s always nice to see him play well,” Fazekas said of his former roommate. “He had 18 points and 11 rebounds, I don’t think he’d ever had a double-double before.”
“That was it,” said Shiloh, who admitted that he was needed to step up when Marcelus Kemp was plagued by early foul trouble. “I got into a good rhythm. Marcelus is an important part of the team as far as scoring goes, so we all had to step up. We all had to hit big shots.”
Fresno State put together a 13-2 run to make it 65-57 with 10:02 left, as center Hector Hernandez (13 points) drained two 3-pointers and Eddie Miller contributed a basket and two free throws.
Two buckets by Fazekas, including a putback, and a lay-up by Lyndale Burleson gave Nevada a 71-59 lead with 7:20 left, and the Bulldogs never got closer than that the rest of the game.
Fazekas showed a nice touch most of the night, and had better success getting the ball to go down in the final 20 minutes.
“I had touch tonight,” Fazekas said. “That’s the way I feel every night. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in. They were trying to double-team me (some). Later they challenged me to score.”
Nevada rebounded well in the first half, 33-17, but the Pack also got itself into a ton of foul trouble as Ikovlev, JaVale McGee, and Kemp picked up two fouls apiece, and Tyrone Hanson and David Ellis were whistled three times each.
“I was really concerned,” Fox said.
Nevada had an eight-point lead, 21-13, and twice led by six points (26-20 and 28-22). Fazekas scored 12 points, but was a dismal 4 for 13 from the floor.
The Bulldogs who missed their first nine shots from the floor, hit 13 of their last 23 attempts to pull to 40-38 at halftime. The Bulldogs should have led after 20 minutes, but they missed layups and went 7-for-17 from the foul line.
An 8-2 run pulled Fresno State to within 30-29 with 5:23 left, and 3-pointers by Hector Hernandez tied the game at 36 with 2:06 left. Fazekas and Quinton Hosley traded free throws to keep the game tied at 37, and Hanson nailed his second 3-pointer of the half to make it 40-37. Dominic McGuire hit a free throw with 40.5 left to make it a two-point game.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you play, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you have to absolutely get things done,” Cleveland said. “And we have to make free throws. We had a chance to be up seven or eight points in the first half just by making free throws, but we didn’t do that.
They (Fresno players) want it, they want it badly but you gotta do the little things. And we haven’t proved in conference play that we can do those little things to be a really good team.”