Pack cruises to easy win over South Dakota St. | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack cruises to easy win over South Dakota St.

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – Another home game, another snowstorm, another easy victory for the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team.

“It’s just good to get another win, period,” senior guard Brandon Fields said after the Pack’s 92-72 victory over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits Saturday night.

Just 3,130 fans braved a winter storm to see the Wolf Pack (4-4) remain unbeaten at home (4-0) this season.

“These kinds of games are tough during Finals (exams) week,” junior guard Armon Johnson said. “But it was good to get another win under our belt.”

The Wolf Pack, which led 49-31 at the half, never trailed in the game. The Pack also never trailed during an 89-67 home victory Tuesday night in front of 3,778 fans.

“We came out in the first half and set a good tempo,” said Pack coach David Carter, whose team reached .500 for the first time since a loss at North Carolina on Nov. 29. “We set the tone early and did a nice job.”

The Pack went on a 12-2 run in the first five minutes to take a 14-4 lead. Johnson, who finished with 17 points, scored eight points in the first six minutes as the Pack drained seven of its first 10 shots.

Fields, who finished with a game-high 20 points, scored 11 points in a span of just 3 minutes, 13 seconds as the Pack took a commanding 36-14 lead. Joey Shaw, who finished with 13 points, also took his turn on the offensive end, scoring eight points in the first eight minutes.

“We wanted to come out in this game and work on our execution on offense,” said Johnson, who had five assists and four turnovers in 26 minutes. “I think we did pretty well with that for the most part.”

The Wolf Pack converted 14 of their first 18 shots inside the 3-point line and finished the game at 54 percent (35-of-65) from the field overall. The Pack shot 65 percent (31-of-48) from inside the arc.

Carter, though, was just as happy with the Pack defense. South Dakota State (4-6) shot just 39 percent from the field.

“We didn’t want them to come down and run their offense every time and let their shooters cut us up a little bit,” Carter said. “I thought we did a good job with that.”

One area of concern, Carter said, was on the boards. The Pack, which got 10 rebounds (and 16 points) from Luke Babbitt, outrebounded the Jackrabbits, 43-36. Carter, though, expected an edge on the glass similar to the one the Pack enjoyed against Fresno Pacific (42-23).

“I felt we should have outrebounded this team by 19 or 20,” Carter said. “So I wasn’t pleased in that area.”

South Dakota State actually had more offensive rebounds (19-15) than the Pack.

“They got a lot of offensive rebounds,” said Carter of the Jacks. “Fortunately, we got away with it tonight.”

Like the Fresno Pacific game four nights earlier, the Pack was able to give extensive minutes to its bench. All 11 members of the Pack’s active roster scored at least two points and played at least seven minutes. Marko Cukic led the way off the bench with seven points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

“When those guys get in there we tell them, ‘Play like it’s a close game,'” Carter said. “We want them to show us as a staff what they can do so we can evaluate them.”

The Pack’s six bench players combined to play 83 minutes and score 22 points. Against Fresno Pacific the bench scored 26 points in 90 minutes.

“It’s fun to watch them play,” Fields said. “It’s also a good learning experience for them.”

“It doesn’t surprise us when they play well,” Johnson said. “We see what they can do in practice everyday.”

The Wolf Pack will return to the court Dec. 17 against Eastern Washington and against Wagner on Dec. 19 at Lawlor Events Center. The two home games are part of the Las Vegas Classic. The Pack will conclude the tournament in Las Vegas with a pair of games on Dec. 22 (against BYU) and Dec. 23 (against either Nebraska or Tulsa).