Rebels rise up to stun Nevada
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Someone forgot to tell UNLV that Lawlor Events Center is a tough place to play.
The Rebels built a 17-point first-half lead and then staved off a late Nevada comeback to pull off a 58-49 upset of the 19th-ranked and the previously unbeaten Wolf Pack Saturday night before a crowd of 11,368.
Nevada (7-1), which had won 90 percent of its home games dating back to the start of the 2003-04 season, shot a season-low 34.7 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 21 times and hit only 1 of 15 3-point shots, as the Pack reverted back to their 2004-05 form from beyond the arc.
“We have been relying on our offense the first seven games, and tonight we weren’t offensively fit,” said All-American forward Nick Fazekas, who scored 16 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, but scored only four points in the second half. “The ball just wasn’t going down.
“Our defense wasn’t good enough. It was a little bit physical. We couldn’t make many shots tonight.”
Fazekas, who entered the game shooting 60 percent, made just 6 of 13 attempts. Ramon Sessions (16 points) was 6 of 12, but the rest of the team went 5 of 24 from the field, including a 1 of 11 effort by Marcelus Kemp.
The 21 turnovers may have been the most damaging. UNLV turned those mistakes into 24 points.
“I don’t think we were rusty,” Fox said. “Their defense forced us to turn the ball over. Their defense disrupted us and got us out of rhythm, and the ball didn’t go in. Turnovers were the major factor in the game.
“We played better in the second half. We had to go small (lineup). Our big line-up couldn’t match up and we had to adjust. In the right situation we might (play zone again). It’s not something I like to do.”
UNLV shot 26 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, and seemed a bit tentative according to its coach.
“We did get tentative and didn’t get the ball inside against the zone,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “We got cautious, but it was a big win for us.”
Nevada played a lot of 2-3 zone in the second half with its small lineup, and it paid dividends. The Pack went on a 17-2 run over a span of nine-plus minutes, cutting the Rebels’ 21-point lead to six, 48-42, with 4:03 left.
A lay-up by Denis Ikovlev and back-to-back lay-ups by Sessions made it 46-32. Kemp knocked down two free throws, but UNLV’s Joel Anthony broke the drought with a lay-up with 8:14 left and made it 48-34.
The Rebels went scoreless over the next four minutes, as Sessions scored eight straight points, including a transition dunk. His last bucket cut it to the aforementioned six points.
Nevada had a couple chances to cut into the lead further, but Nevada went 0-for-3 on one possession and then Kemp stepped out of bounds on another.
Wink Adams drained a baseline jump shot to make it 52-44 with 1:14 left, and that was a backbraker.
“I’m never scared to take the big shot for my team,” Adams said. “If they need me to take the shot, I’m going to take the shot.”
In the end, Nevada put itself in a 17-point first-half hole, and it was simply too much to overcome.
The first half may have been Nevada’s worst of the season. The Pack shot a miserable 30 percent and turned the ball over 11 times, leading to 16 UNLV points.
Despite some frigid shooting, Nevada trailed only 22-19 with 7:53 remaining in the half.
That’s when the game got away from the Pack. In the next 4 1/2 minutes, Nevada went 0-for-4 from the floor and committed four of its 11 turnovers, and UNLV went on a 13-0 run to take a 35-19 lead.
Kevin Kruger started the barrage with a nice drive to the basket, and after Sessions had a shot blocked, Wendell White scored on a putback at the other end. Kruger converted after another Nevada miscue, and then Curtis Terry, with the shot clock running down, threw in a desperation 3-pointer from 25 feet while falling out of bounds to make it 31-19.
Nevada turned the ball over its next two possessions, and Gaston Essengue knocked down two free throws, and then Anthony slammed a dunk home on a fast break.
“That was probably our best 20 minutes of the year,” Kruger said. “Our guys really fought, especially in the first half.
“Nick (Fazekas) is a great player. He’s going to get his points. I thought we made him work for everything.”
Indeed. Fazekas didn’t get many touches in the second 20 minutes, and that was due to Nevada’s impatience down the stretch.