WOLF PACK: Nevada loses to Arizona State, falls to 2-8 | NevadaAppeal.com
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WOLF PACK: Nevada loses to Arizona State, falls to 2-8

JOE SANTORO For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – Olek Czyz brought energy, intensity and passion to the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team Friday night.

But he couldn’t bring a victory.

“I’m a little down right now,” said Wolf Pack coach David Carter after a 78-75 loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils at Lawlor Events Center. “This is a game we really wanted to win.”

Czyz, who transferred to Nevada from Duke a year ago, scored 10 points and had seven rebounds in 24 minutes in his Wolf Pack debut.

“I wish we could have come out with a win,” said Czyz, a 2008 Reno High graduate. “That’s what we really wanted. We did some good things and we did some bad things. But we just have to put this behind us.”

The 6-foot-7 Czyz also did some good things and some bad things. Overall, though, he gave the crowd of 3,666 a nice sample of all his talents.

“In the first half I was a little shaky,” said Czyz, who was playing in his first game in one year and two days. “But that’s to be expected.”

Czyz had no points, no rebounds, a turnover and two fouls in six minutes in the first half.

“He was real anxious in the first half,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack fell to 2-8. “He lost a couple balls (in the lane) and he picked up two quick fouls. When you get two quick fouls like that we weren’t able to feed off his energy.”

In the second half the Pack feasted on Czyz’s energy. The junior scored 10 points in a 10-minute stretch as the Pack cut Arizona State’s lead from 38-31 to 56-53 with seven minutes to play.

“He helped tremendously,” said point guard Deonte Burton, who had 18 points and two assists. “He brought energy, intensity on defense.”

Czyz also ignited the crowd and his teammates with a thunderous dunk midway through the second half, cutting the Sun Devils lead to 54-49. He rebounded a missed shot by Burton and jammed it home over two Sun Devils.

“That just energized everybody,” Burton said. “Everybody got up after that. Our defense came alive, we played much better. Everybody fed off of that. That’s the kind of plays he can make.”

Czyz dominated both ends of the floor during his 10-minute flurry, also grabbing six rebounds.

“I thought I responded in the second half,” he said. “I brought energy and enthusiasm to my teammates.”

The Pack, which trailed by as much as 12 (54-42 with 11 minutes to go) fed off Czyz and pulled within a point, 67-66 with 1:21 to play.

Burton hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 61-58 with 4:51 to play. Dario Hunt had a layup and a free throw to cut it to 64-63 with 2:16 to go and Malik Story drained a 3-pointer to cut it to 67-66.

The Pack, as it has done in many of their eight losses this year, just could never get over the hump against the Sun Devils. Story, who had a team-high 19 points, missed two 3-pointers in a span of 19 seconds in the final minute.

The Sun Devils also got a crucial 3-pointer from Ty Abbott with 59 seconds to go for a 70-66 lead and also converted 8-of-10 free throws in the final 38 seconds. Arizona State also got a 3-pointer from Brandon Dunson for a 67-63 lead with 1:36 to go. It was Dunson’s first 3-pointer of the season for the now 5-4 Sun Devils.

“He doesn’t make one all year and he hits one against us,” said Carter. “But that’s what good teams do.”

Arizona State led the entire game. The Sun Devils led by as much as nine (29-20) in the first half, thanks to six 3-pointers (nine for the game) and never allowed the Pack to even tie the game.

“They spread us out and hit some open threes,” Burton said. “We had some miscommunication on defense and we lost a couple of their shooters.”

Carter pointed to a technical called on Wolf Pack senior center Illiwa Baldwin as a crucial moment in the second half. Baldwin, frustrated after missing a layup with the Pack trailing 50-42 with 11:18 to play, was called for a technical after slamming the ball to the court. Arizona State’s Rihards Kuksiks made the two free throws for a 52-42 lead.

“He’s a 24-year-old senior,” Carter said. “He needs to have more composure than that. That was a big momentum swing. That was just a dumb play on his part.”

“I’m not saying that one play lost us this game,” Czyz said. “But every possession counts in a game like this.”

The Wolf Pack, which will host Portland State on Monday night (7:30 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center, has now lost four games by three points or less.

“We’re learning from every game,” Burton said. “We’re getting closer and closer.”

“We just didn’t get the stops we needed down the stretch,” Carter said.

Carter is growing tired of talking to his team about closing out games.

“We talk about it all the time, about closing out games,” Carter said. “But there comes a time when you have to stop talking about it and go out and do it.”