Wolf Pack passes first test with flying colors
RENO – It was supposed to be the first test for Nevada’s young basketball team. It ended up being more like a pop quiz, which the Wolf Pack passed with flying colors.
Led by tournament MVP Nick Fazekas’ 27 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolf Pack rolled Georgia State 76-55 in the championship game of the Jim Thorpe Classic Sunday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The win gives Nevada a 2-0 record entering its most difficult road trip of the season. Nevada plays at Georgia on Friday and at Kansas next Monday, Nov. 29. The win also was Nevada’s 17th straight at home, dating back to last season.
Mark Fox, Nevada’s first-year head coach, was surprised at the ease in which his team won.
“I really thought we’d be in for a dogfight, just because Georgia State had a lot of quickness,” Fox said. “I anticipated we would have our hands full. This was the first time we played solid team defense, and I think that keyed our win more than anything.”
And, Fazekas hopes the two big wins will give the team some more confidence heading into the big road trip.
“It’s like coach Fox told us, Georgia State is a good team. I don’t think any of us really know how good we can be. We’re playing good basketball, and each and every one of us is playing well. We have the potential to do something great.”
If the Wolf Pack continue to play like they did this weekend, it could have a very successful season. The Pack’s effort, which included a 56 percent effort from the floor and a 42-27 edge on the boards, certainly caught the eye of Georgia State coach Michael Perry. The Georgia State coach, while heaping praise on the Wolf Pack, also noted that his team lacked patience offensively early in the contest, leading to a 28 percent effort in the first 20 minutes.
“I think they are a very good basketball team,” Perry said. “They are very sound. They don’t hurt themselves. He (Fazekas) is very cerebral. He finds ways to score and doesn’t force it. He’s always moving and looking for opportunities.
“We can shoot the three, but I like to get the threes in transition. I thought our guys settled too early for the three. It’s a weapon, but you have to watch it from time to time.”
And, the Panthers didn’t, hitting just 6-for-21 from beyond the arc, including 1-for 10 in the first 20 minutes.
Save for the 10 first-half turnovers, Nevada played a solid first half in building a 33-19 advantage. Nevada, led by Fazekas’ 9-for-10 shooting from the field, shot 57 percent from the floor and out-rebounded Georgia State 24-10.
The Panthers attempted to pressure Nevada early in the contest, but quite simply had little success with it. Freshman Ramon Sessions had another solid game at point guard, scoring seven points, adding four assists and no turnovers. Perry actually got out of the pressing defense fairly early in the first half, a move which surprised the Wolf Pack.
“I thought we’d be able to pressure them into difficult shots,” Perry said. “They started handling the pressure pretty good.
“He (Sesions) did a good job. He’s a solid guard with good size. His cousin (Trello Galloway) played for us. We had two point guards already. I saw him in Vegas his junior year, and at the time, he was a combo guard. He’s done a real good job (with the transition).”
Nevada scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, four each by Kevinn Pinkey, an all-tournament selection, and Fazekas, who had back-to-back 27-point games in the tournament.
Georgia State cut the lead to 24-19 with 5:13 left thanks to a 10-2 run, but Nevada bounced back with a 9-0 run to end the half, with a 14-point lead. Sessions started the rally with a difficult pull-up jump shot, and then Fazekas scored the next seven points, including two slam dunks.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me at the right time,” said Fazekas.
“Nick can finish any kind of shot,” Fox said. “His teammates put him in good position to finish and have a career tournament.”
Nevada built its lead to 41-21 with an 8-2 run to open the second half. Pinkney sparked the run with a jump hook from the right baseline and a bone-jarring dunk after a Georgia State turnover. Approximately six minutes later, Nevada put together a 9-0 run to build its lead to 63-32 with 8:38 left, as Fazekas scored on a layup, Seth Taylor had a putback, Fazekas drained two free throws and Sessions added a slam dunk after a steal and a free throw.
The two wins have been impressive, but Pinkney said the team has a long ways to go.
“We have to cut down on turnovers,” said the Wolf Pack senior, who finished with 12 points “We had a lot of unforced errors (this weekend). We’re not concentrating. We have to eliminate the turnovers, and once we do that we’ll be OK.”
NOTES: Freshman center David Ellis blocked two shots, giving him six for the tournament … Mo Charlo wowed the crowd with several nice moves to the basket, but didn’t finish as many of the plays as he would have liked. The 6-7 junior did have five assists to lead the team … Jermaine Washington , who also made the all-tourney team, finished with six points and six assists.
Southern Miss 75, Colorado Springs 61
After getting blown out by 55 against Nevada on Saturday, the Mountain Lions (0-2) stayed with the Golden Eagles (1-1) for about 27 minutesÝ before falling.
With a 48-41 lead, Southern Miss went on a 12-0 run to take a commanding 60-41 lead with 8:44 left in the contest. Center Jasper Johnson, an all-tourney pick, scored eight of his game-high 23 points in that span. Colorado Springs never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy wasn’t happy with his team’s effort.
“I think Colorado Spring played really hard,” he said. “We’re trying to find ourselves as a team. We’re not practicing very well, so we’re not playing well (at times).”
Jarekus Singleton added 19 for the Golden Eagles and Solomon Brown added 14. All-tourney pick Torrey Phillips led Colorado Springs with 15, while Stephon Hicks and Jim Pecic added 12 each.
Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281.