AKRON, Ohio (AP)—Nick Fazekas didn’t let a slight ankle sprain keep him from leading No. 25 Nevada to another road win.
The senior center had 24 points and 11 rebounds to help the Wolf Pack hold off Akron 73-71 on Friday night in front of a crowd that included Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James.
“He had a little sprain, but got it retaped and came back out and helped us finish,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said of the 6-foot-11 Fazekas, who averages 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“We needed him. We had our hands full. Akron’s offense is a little better than our defense so we went to the zone—which we normally don’t do—and it worked.”
Dru Joyce tied a career high with 23 points and Romeo Travis added 11 to lead Akron (7-3), which had a 21-game home winning streak snapped. The two seniors combined with James to win two state championships at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
“I’m not really one for moral victories, so I’m not completely satisfied,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “We had a chance to win and didn’t handle the zone well enough.”
Ramon Sessions added 22 points for Nevada (10-1), which tied the best start in history, set in 1978-79 and matched last season. The Wolf Pack have won nine straight on the road and are 25-5 away from home the last three seasons.
“Akron played great,” Sessions said. “We made a bad switch on the final play, but luckily they missed the shot.”
Akron got the ball after a timeout with 2.6 seconds left and passed to Joyce, who missed an open 14-footer.
“I thought I was going to be a decoy, but they made a mistake on coverage and I was open,” Joyce said. “I had a good look, but short-armed it. Nine of the next 10 times, I’ll hit that shot.”
Nevada used an 8-0 run to take a 65-61 lead with four minutes to play. Then Nick Dials was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all the free throws to get the Zips within one point with 3:36 left.
Joyce missed a free throw with 3:01 left that would have tied it at 67, but he hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to get the Zips within 71-69 with 1:50 left.
Fazekas made his first eight shots before missing a 12-foot jumper with 1:37 left in the first half as Nevada went on a 17-6 run to lead 41-33 at halftime.
Akron’s Cedrick Middleton drove the length of the court for a three-point play as the first-half buzzer sounded.
“That was a momentum-changer,” Joyce said. “We were in trouble, our heads were dropping, but he got us going.”
The Zips opened the second half with a 15-3 run, including a long 3-pointer by Joyce that gave them a 48-44 lead.
Before the game, it was announced that Dambrot signed a new five-year contract.
Dambrot, who has a 49-23 record in two-plus seasons at the school, is under contract through 2011. He coached St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to its state championships before taking over at Akron.