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Snyder leads Wolf Pack men to victory

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal News Service

RENO – Kirk Snyder admitted that his eyes lit up at the opportunity to face Southern Methodist University’s 2-3 zone defense.

His eyes weren’t the only things lit up. The Wolf Pack junior razed the Mustangs for a career-best 33 points to lead Nevada to a 84-74 Western Athletic Conference basketball win Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada improved to 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the WAC heading into road games at UTEP and Boise State next week. The win was Nevada’s seventh straight win at home this season, matching a mark set in the 1984-85 season.

Snyder was remarkably modest about his performance which saw him knock down 11 of 15 attempts from the floor, and dish out six assists. He also became the 16th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark.

“I don’t know (if it was my best),” Snyder said. “My teammates put me in a position to be successful. Anytime you go off like this, you couldn’t do it without the team. I studied the films, and knew where the soft spots were going to be.”

“He’s a great player,” said freshman center Nick Fazekas, who contributed a career-high 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting. “He’s fun to play with. He makes everybody better.”

The shooting of Snyder and Fazekas led to a season-best 61.5 percentage from the field. Nevada had success from both the inside and outside.

“We moved the ball and made good passes to get open shots,” Nevada coach Trent Johnson said. “It’s a matter of throwing them down. If you don’t, you’re going to struggle. We made the open shots.

“I don’t worry about this group offensively. We’re going to get our shots. We’re winning games, and Todd (Okeson) has yet to shoot the ball well. I tell him not to worry about it, and that it will come. He’s very important to this team.”

Snyder scored 12 points, including two three-pointers in the first 13 minutes of the first half, to lead the Wolf Pack to a 27-15 lead. Snyder left the game moments later, and SMU scored eight straight points, five by point guard Bryan Hopkins, to cut the lead to 27-26 with 5:23 left.

Snyder re-entered the game, and immediately scored to ignite an 11-4 run to end the first and give Nevada a 38-30 lead.

Snyder continued to score in the second half, but the final 20 minutes really belonged to Fazekas, who hit all eight of his field-goal attempts in that span. Fazekas’ previous high game was 15 against Weber State on Dec. 13.

The freshman, who was making just his second start of the season, hit his first six shots from the field to lift Nevada to a 58-46 lead with 12:04 left in the game. He was a big beneficiary of the SMU zone. The Wolf Pack played a little high-low game, and Fazekas got some easy buckets on passes from Snyder, Okeson and Pinkney.

“We worked on that during practice,” Fazekas said. “It’s always there, especially against a zone. Kevinn (Pinkney) flashes up and attracts the defense.”

“He’s a great finisher,” Snyder said of Fazekas. “Anytime two guys come at me and I get the ball to Nick, I know he’ll finish.”

Fazekas has been pleased with his progress, but there are times when his inexperience shows. Despite 13 regular season games and two exhibitions, he still makes the mistakes that a first-year player makes.

“Sometimes in the first half, I looked like a freshman,” he said. “The second half I turned it around. I only shot twice (actually three times) in the first half, and that’s not good. I feel if I get the ball down there (low post) I should score.”

“Kevinn and Kirk made some good passes (to Fazekas),” Johnson said. “He had a horrible first half. It was like he was in a fog.”

SMU wouldn’t go away, however. The Mustangs closed to 61-55 with 9:14 left in the game on two three-pointers by Hopkins, who scored 15 points in the second half, and a layup by Devon Perason that was goaltended by Snyder.

“He (Hopkins) was the only guy making a jump shot,” SMU coach Mike Dement said. “We were trying to go inside, but our inside guys weren’t scoring. Nevada kids were much bigger and stronger. They would put a body on our guys, and they couldn’t finish.”

“I thought we did a decent job (on Hopkins),” Johnson said. “He’s an explosive player, and I thought we did a good job of trying to wear him down.”

Nevada built the lead back up to 67-55 on two buckets by Snyder and a slam by Okeson, who was called for a technical for hanging on the rim. Hopkins hit one of two technical shots, and on the ensuing possession, Donatas Rackauskas converted a three-point play to make it 67-59 with 7:47 remaining.

Nevada rebounded with a 12-4 run to make it 79-63 with 4:46 left, essentially putting the game away. The surge was highlighted by a three-point play by Fazekas, a three-pointer by Snyder and another slam by Okeson.

Notes: After being outrebounded by Louisiana Tedch on Thursday, the Wolf Pack enjoyed a 30-28 edge against SMU. Fazekas led the way with nine and Pinkney pulled down five… Johnson is looking forward to practice on Monday and Tuesday, admitting that the Wolf Pack need to shore up their transition defense and work on rebounding. With the tough early schedule (four games in seven days), the Wolf Pack practices haven’t been as grueling in an effort to save energy… Senior forward Dean Browne didn’t suit up again for the second straight game. He had knee surgery earlier in the season.