Wolf Pack basketball wins ugly against Pacific
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – The first storm of the winter kept more than 4,000 fans from Lawlor Events Center Saturday night.
They didn’t miss a whole lot.
Nevada, ranked 21st in the USA Today poll and 25th by the Associated Press, struggled through the entire first half, then got its long-distance game cranked up and held off Pacific 60-53 before a crowd of 5,250.
“We looked like a team that was in the middle of finals,” said Nevada coach Mark Fox, whose team improved to 9-1 and had to fight back from a seven-point second-half deficit “I told them to get back to the game plan and keep things simple; execute what we try to execute everyday.
“Tonight there were a lot of excuses – finals, the weather and the delay – but I told the team I didn’t want to use any of them. It’s always tough to play at this time of the year.”
After shooting 33 percent in the first half, mostly against Pacific’s 3-2 zone defense, Nevada shot 50 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes and 50 percent from 3-point range (7 of 14) in the second half. Fox said that Nick Fazekas was responsible for that.
“One of the things we face with Nick Fazekas is people are giving us 3-point shots right now,” Fox said. “Nick is not getting as many touches as he wants or as I’d like him to have, but he’s surrounded. The 3-point shot is there, and we’re going to take it.”
Trailing 29-22 after Casey Neimeyer converted a three-point play to open the second half, Nevada went on an 18-2 run to open up a 40-31 lead with 14:24 remaining.
Treys by Kyle Shiloh (11 points), Marcelus Kemp (19 points) and Fazekas (13 points, 10 rebounds) sandwiched around a bucket by Steffan Johnson tied the game at 31 with 17:21 left. Ramon Sessions (11 points) scored on a putback, and Shiloh and Kemp each added another 3-pointer apiece to complete the barrage.
“We really weren’t running the offense (in the first half),” Kemp said. “Myself, I was taking bad shots. In the second half we tried to run the offense and move the ball around and get some good looks. I was taking better shots and they went in.”
Fazekas said that sort of success has players feeding off each other.
“It’s definitely contagious,” Fazekas said. “We’re a team. There are five of us out there playing. It’s not just one on one. Coach is trying to get a bunch of us different looks, so if one guy is hitting then you feel like the basket might be that much bigger for you.”
Big runs early in the second half have been a trademark of Nevada’s in recent games.
Nevada had a 13-1 run against Saint Mary’s, a 17-2 burst against UNLV, 10-0 against Irvine and 17-0 against Alaska-Anchorage.
“I thought it (3-2 zone) worked in the second half,” Pacific coach Bob Thomason said. “We made some mistakes in it. They got a couple of transition baskets and Shiloh hit a big three. Good teams make plays in the second half.”
Despite the big run, Pacific still had a lot of fight left. Three times in the last 11 minutes, Pacific trimmed Nevada’s lead to three points.
The Tigers showed off their 3-point shooting when Wolfgang Raffety and Michael White hit back-to-back shots and Johnson converted a reverse lay-up to make it 42-39.
The teams traded baskets, and then Nevada went on a 7-0 run to take a 51-41 lead, as Sessions drove the lane for a lay-up, Kemp knocked in another 3-pointer and Fazekas picked up a loose ball and scored on a lay-up.
Two free throws by Anthony Brown (10 points) and a trey by Anthony Esparza made it 51-46. White got the deficit back down to three, 51-48, with 4:27 left. Fazekas made it a five-point game with 3:51 left, but White missed from close range, and Kemp made the Tigers pay with another 3-pointer.
Pacific reeled off five straight points to get the lead down to three, 56-53, with 1:08 left.
Nevada’s Denis Ikovlev converted a lay-up with 48.1 left and Sessions knocked down two free throws with 12.3 remaining.
“We made key mistakes, but we had enough cushion it didn’t cost us,” Fox said.
Pacific employed a 3-2 zone much of the first half against the Pack, and Nevada’s outside shooters couldn’t find the range, leading to a 26-22 halftime deficit. Nevada shot 33 percent from the floor (10 of 30).
“We played the zone because we are trying to take away penetration in the middle and the wings,” Thomason said. “We didn’t want to allow a wing three.”
“It was a change of defense for us,” Fazekas said. “We hadn’t seen that yet this year. It threw us for a loop a little bit. Then we definitely figured it out and were able to get buckets out of it.”
The Tigers missed their first four shots from the floor, enabling Nevada to build an early 10-4 lead, as Sessions, thigh contusion and all, connected on a jump shot and lay-up.
The Tigers hit 6 of their next 11 from the field and outscored Nevada 12-2 to build a 20-14 lead with 5:43 remaining, as Solomon Horsechief scored all 10 of his first-half points, including two 3-point field goals.
Nevada tied the game at 20 on a putback by Fazekas, a 3-pointer by Shiloh and a free throw by Kemp.
The Pack went the next 3 1/2 minutes before scoring again, going 0 for 4 and turning the ball over once. Pacific scored six of the final eight points of the half for a four-point lead.
“We were out of rhythm in the first half because of our decision making,” Fox said. “Our decision making was extremely poor in the first half.”