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Wolf Pack chews up Bulldogs

Wolf Pack chews up Bulldogs

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Nevada fans gave seniors Curry Lynch, Marcelus Kemp, David Ellis and Demarshay Johnson a rousing farewell, and then the Wolf Pack went out and demolished Louisiana Tech in impressive fashion.

The Wolf Pack shot 66 percent from the field, including 71 percent in the second half, and pounded the smaller Bulldogs 37-19 on the boards en route to an easy 87-57 victory before a crowd of 8,352 at Lawlor Events Center.

The trouncing marked Nevada coach Mark Fox’s 100th career win, as the Pack improved to 19-10 overall and 11-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. The struggling Bulldogs dropped to 4-23 and 1-13, respectively.

“It was a great win for us,” said senior Marcelus Kemp, who barely missed a triple double with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists. “It puts us in a better position. We can still get better on the defensive end and rebounding. We just need to keep working.”

Kemp’s streak of 28 games in double figures ended Thursday, but knowing Kemp that isn’t a big deal. His work on the boards and passing really stood out.

Kemp wasn’t needed to score against Tech. JaVale McGee scored a career-high 26 points, Brandon Fields added 14 and Armon Johnson 10. The trio more than picked up the slack. McGee went 12-for-14 from the floor, including a banked 3-pointer.

“I’m just playing my game, trying to get rebounds and score,” McGee said. “They [the shots] were falling for me, so it was good.”

McGee provided the highlight of the game in the first half. He blocked an Adrian Rogers shot from around the free-throw line and scooped up the loose ball. McGee took off from the free-throw line and threw down a rim-rattling dunk to the delight of the Lawlor Faithful.

“It felt good,” McGee said, a wide smile on his face.

That dunk gave Nevada an early 14-8 lead. Louisiana Tech, despite shooting poorly in the first half (29 percent), sliced the deficit to 27-20. The game changed in a big way moments later after Armon Johnson gave Nevada a 29-20 lead with 5 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the first half.

Kemp drove the lane and had his shot blocked. Kemp came up with the ball and was called for walking by referee Brian Sorenson.

Fox jumped off the bench and started to gesture that the ball had been touched. He even threw in a couple of patented foot stomps to accentuate his displeasure even more. Referee Eric Curry, who was approximately 30 feet away whistled Fox for a technical.

“To be honest, I thought our team was flat,” Fox said. “I thought the crowd was flat. I hadn’t had one [technical] all year. I thought I might as well get one now and get the team going. No disrespect to the officials. I deserved it.”

“I think so,” Kemp said when asked if he thought the technical fired up the Pack. “We huddled up and said [to each other] that we had to get this win and do it in a nice fashion.”

Tech’s Kyle Gibson went 1-for-2 at the line to make it 29-21, and Nevada responded with a 13-4 surge to end the half and take a 42-25 lead.

Fields started the surge with two free throws, and after a miss by Orren Timms, Demarshay Johnson converted a three-point play. Rogers misfired and Kemp drove the lane to make it 36-21. After a Bulldogs turnover, Fields buried a 3-pointer from the right side to stretch the lead to 42-23.

Nevada went 18-for-29 from the floor in the first half, enjoyed a 23-11 edge on the boards and had 14 assists on those 18 baskets.

Tech coach Kerry Rupp said that his team got out of sync on offense and didn’t follow its game plan on defense.

“Our defensive plan was to try and pin the ball to a sideline, try to front the post [McGee and Demarshay Johnson] and lock up the guys behind it,” Rupp said. We’re not good enough to defend people, especially in the post, so we have to bring a team concept to it.

“We tried to play too fast [later in the half]. I thought we missed some easy shots inside. We didn’t have the defensive balance and they were going down and scoring.”

In the second half, Nevada had two nice scoring runs to put the game out of reach, and the Bulldogs were helpless at the defensive end.

Six points by Fields and four by McGee sparked a 10-0 run and gave Nevada a 57-31 lead with 14:04 left.

Nevada started a 17-2 run to grab its biggest lead of the game, 77-40, with 2:25 left.

McGee had seven points in that surge and Lynch scored on a nice finger-roll layup, bringing the crowd to its feet. Lynch played a season-high 11 minutes.

Make no mistake about it, this one could have been a lot worse, but Fox subbed frequently in the second half, which resulted in some ragged play at times.

“Give them credit,” Rupp said. “That’s a good team. I thought they did a good job pressuring us. They pounded us on the boards. They were physical and we were soft. We can’t get pounded on the boards. We have to fight.”

Fight? That’s something Tech had very little of once the Wolf Pack took control.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281