The win was needed but it wasn’t great
Kirk Snyder, Kevinn Pinkney, Jerry Petty and Terrance Green visited the media room following Nevada’s win over Seattle Pacific on Thursday. None of them smiled. None of them should have. They were subdued and unanimated. It was great to see.
Disillusioned fans, meanwhile, kept saying afterwards: “They’re a good Division II team.”
Is there such a thing?
Beating the Division II Falcons is easier than putting on socks. If Jason Eversteyn and London Wilson, two Nevada players who play as much as Wolfie, had started the outcome wouldn’t have been any different. I don’t know if the Falcons are a good Division II team and I suspect neither does anyone else.
“I don’t even know where Seattle Pacific is,” Snyder said.
Other than it’s in one of largest cities in the United States, he shouldn’t. (I was hesitant to ask Snyder a geography follow up question as the answer might have made me gag. I’ll just assume he knew the school was in Washington).
Snyder, one of the top high school players in California a few years ago, didn’t come to Reno to fist pump after an nine-point win over Seattle Pacific. Neither did anybody else on the team. So even though the team is mired in a unpredictable slump, starting just 3-5, they haven’t lose sight of that.
“We’ll take a win anyway we can get one right now,” said coach Trent Johnson.
Sadly, they did get a win anyway they could get one against Seattle Pacific, trailing much of the first half and the beginning of the second. The Wolf Pack outscored the Falcons during one six minute stretch 24-3 in the second half and the game was over. But before the game even started it was over. If it wasn’t, Nevada has more problems to fix than its perimeter defense.
It was Nevada’s only second win in the three weeks but they can breathe a sigh of relief. Can they be elated? Hell no. Johnson has dutifully ditched his plot to play Green at point guard. Green, Snyder and Garry Hill-Thomas each played at least 22 minutes the other night and all finished in double figures. Todd Okeson started at the point Thursday night and, amazingly, Green had five assists to one turnover. Snyder had five assists. It’s simple. Put your best players in their best positions and good things will happen.
The Wolf Pack plays Portland today and San Diego a week from today. Both games are at home. Win those two and they are 5-5 going into the WAC opener at Rice on Jan 2. Eighteen wins still wouldn’t be impossible and the original goal of qualifying for the NIT would would be manageable.
“We’ve got to keep plugging away,” Johnson said. “We gotta’ build some momentum.”
Johnson mentioned that expectations can be distractions. For a team that has never had any, maybe he’s right. Remember, five of Wolf Pack’s first seven games were on the road. They went 1-4 in those games and four of the losses (I won’t count Arizona State because Nevada is a few semesters away from winning that game) were by a combined 12 points. For all you math wizards, that’s 2.4 ppg, just an ill-advised Snyder 3-pointer away.
Johnson has made progress each year and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different. He went 9-20 in his first season, 10-28 the next and 17-13 the next.
“It’s going to be a lot harder to make the next jump as oppose to going back to being mediocre,” Johnson said.
Maybe the expectations are unfair. I think they are justified. Good teams relish in expectations. This one doesn’t know how to because they haven’t had the opportunity.
But not getting excited over beating a Division II school that had already lost to Seattle University, Missouri Western and Pittsburg State this season is a start.
Jeremy Evans is a Nevada Appeal sports writer.