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Pack’s run wrecked by Tech

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS Kirk Snyder took a look at the stat sheet and grimaced.

“You’re not going to win ballgames shooting like that,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to them. They did a real good job at the defensive end of the floor. They tried to dictate to me what they wanted to do defensively.”

And, Georgia Tech’s physical play held the Wolf Pack to a 21 percent effort from the floor in the second half, and sent Nevada to a 72-67 loss in the St. Louis Regional semifinals before 30,801 at the Edward Jones Dome Friday night.

The loss ended the Wolf Pack’s Cinderella run through the NCAA tournament. The Wolf Pack, who left St. Louis this morning, finished with a 25-9 record.

And, now that the season is over, the questions will start to come and decisions will be made concerning the futures of coach Trent Johnson and superstar Kirk Snyder.

Snyder is projected to be a late first-round draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and he says he hasn’t made a decision yet.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Right now, I’m thinking about the guys we have here. I’ll talk to my parents and Coach J. He (Johnson) has been a good friend and he’s a good basketball coach.”

Snyder admitted that his decision to stay may hinge on whether Johnson comes back next season. His name has been linked to a couple of openings, including Utah where he previously served as an assistant coach.

“It may,” admitted Snyder. “Coach has been more of a friend than anybody can imagine.”

Freshman Nick Fazekas said Johnson is staying at Nevada. Is that wishful thinking or has he really been told?

“I don’t know what he (Snyder) is going to do,” Fazekas said. “You can’t blame him if he goes. It’s his decision. Coach Johnson told me before he has no intention of leaving. He said he wants to stay.”

No doubt this loss will sting a bit. The Wolf Pack demonstrated that they can play with anybody in the country, and could easily be an Elite 8 team.

“Georgia Tech is a pretty good basketball team,” Johnson said. “They didn’t come out and do anyhing that we didn’t expect. They were real physical and ready to defend. We had opportunities late in the second half where a couple of shots didn’t go down for us. This is the first time in a long time that we’ve actually been beaten by a good team, so our hats are off to them.”

And, the way Johnson sees it, the Wolf Pack just couldn’t knock down an open shot in the second half. There was a 13-minute stretch when Nevada hit just three field goals, and had only two in the last six-plus minutes, both by Snyder, who finished with a team high 21 points.

Georgia Tech opened the second half, which featured seven ties, with an 8-2 run. Jarrett Jack’s layup gave Tech a 47-45 lead, its first since the first part of the first half. For the next several minutes no more than two points separated the teams even though Nevada was shooting poorly.

Marvin Lewis, who picked up the slack for the injured B.J. Elder, who was accidentally stepped on by Snyder in the first two minutes of the game and never returned, hit back-to-back three pointers to give Tech a 63-58 lead with 5:20 left.

“When he hit those two threes, it seemed like we were losing it,” Fazekas said. “We had to find a way to get back.”

Jarrett Jack made it 65-60 with two free throws, but Nevada scored seven of the next nine points, all by Snyder to tie the game at 67 with 2:08 left. That was the last time Nevada would score.

Snyder missed twice down the stretch, and Todd Okeson missed from outside. Snyder’s second miss, with Nevada trailing 70-67, was blocked by 7-footer Luke Schenscher, who appeared to give Snyder a lot of body on the play. Clarence Moore closed out the scoring with two free throws.

“This was an amazing performance at the defensive end of the floor,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “I wanted to establish a fast tempo (in the second half) I thought we were in pretty good shape. Their ability to put the ball on the floor concerned us. We wanted to deny all of his (Nick Fazekas’) touches. Fazekas and Snyder were two guys we needed to plan how we were going to take.

“As the game ended, the first thing that flashed through my mind was thank God that Marvin Lewis gave us a chance.”

Lewis was just happy that his teammates found him.

“The guys on the team, they were just looking for me,” he said. “I was ust lucky they were coming my way.”

“We look for Marvin to carry us,” Jack said. “He put the team on his back and carried us al the way. Marvin made some key stops.”

Lewis had 10 in the first half, but Nevada shot a respectable 42 percent and grabbed a 39-34 lead. Okeson led the way with 11 and Snyder had 10, but they were victims of improved Georgia Tech defense in the second half.

Contact Darrell Moody at 881-1281.