New look Pack falls to Seattle Pacific | NevadaAppeal.com

New look Pack falls to Seattle Pacific

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team warned us that there would be days like this. The Pack just didn’t tell us the first one would come so soon.

“The locker room was quiet,” head coach David Carter said Saturday night after his Wolf Pack were stunned, 84-81, in an exhibition game to the Division II Seattle Pacific Falcons in front of 2,984 fans at Lawlor Events Center. “The guys were down. But I told them, ‘This is why you play an exhibition game, to work on things.’ It’s a long season. We just have to keep the guys’ heads up.”

Junior forward Dario Hunt, the Pack’s only returning starter this season, tried to offer some encouraging words to his young teammates, nine of which made their Wolf Pack debut in the game.

“It’s frustrating,” said Hunt, who fouled out with 5:29 to play after scoring eight points and pulling down six rebounds. “There were a lot of mistakes. But there were also some good things. We’ll be all right. There’s no need to panic.”

The best thing to come out of the shocking loss was the emergence of Deonte Burton as the new point guard. The freshman from Los Angeles poured in 28 points, draining 16-of-19 free throws.

“I just played basketball,” the 6-foot-1 Burton said. “I didn’t try to go out and score 28 points. It just happened in the flow of the game.”

Burton was the only Pack player scoring down the stretch. He scored eight consecutive points in the final two minutes. His two free throws cut Seattle Pacific’s lead to 78-77 with 34 seconds to play, and his layup cut the deficit to 82-80 with eight seconds to go.

“He was in a good flow,” Carter said. “He played under control and he played hard.”

Burton, though, only had one assist in 30 minutes.

“The rest of our players, I thought, stood around and watched him too much,” Carter said.

Another Pack freshman, shooting guard Jordan Finn, added 15 points in 18 minutes.

“This is a game to learn from,” Finn said. “We have good chemistry. It’s not that. We just all have to get to know the offense better.”

The Pack, which last lost an exhibition game in November 2002 (73-71 to Humboldt State), turned the ball over 16 times and shot just 41 percent (25-of-61) from the field. The Pack also missed 13-of-17 3-pointers.

“It wasn’t about shot selection,” Carter said. “The shots were there. It was more about rhythm. I thought most of our 3-point shots were second-thought 3-pointers. We didn’t shoot them in a good rhythm.”

“We struggled with the offense a little bit,” Burton said. “But we got through it. I thought it went pretty smooth for us being all new.”

The Pack seemed to be out of sync at both ends of the floor. Seattle Pacific point guard Chris Banchero scored a game-high 33 points in 33 minutes and carried the Falcons down the stretch before fouling out with 19 seconds to play.

The Pack took its last lead of the first half on a Malik Story 3-pointer with 6:15 to go. The Wolf Pack then only regained the lead briefly twice in the second half as Story hit another trey for a 40-38 lead with 18:31 to go and Burton hit two free throws for a 70-69 lead with 5:23 left.

The Pack, though, never could get over the hump in the final four minutes. Banchero strolled down the lane for a layup off an assist from Andy Poling for a 77-74 lead with 1:41 to go. The 6-1 guard then hit two free throws for an 80-77 lead with 22 seconds to play.

“Down the stretch we really weren’t talking about our offense,” Carter said. “It was all about getting stops on the defensive end.”

The Falcons, which also beat another Division I team, Eastern Washington, on Tuesday (87-82), drained seven consecutive free throws in a one-minute stretch to seal the victory.

“The butterflies were there,” Carter said. “And we knew they would be. “For our first test, we had a lot of anxious turnovers. When you have a young group, that’s going to happen. This is new for everybody.”

Carter, though, said he expects the newness to wear off soon.The Wolf Pack opens its regular season Nov. 13 at home against Montana.

“They have to grow up and grow up fast,” he said.