RENO, Nev. (AP)—Nevada coach Mark Fox wasn’t sure how the 15th-ranked Wolf Pack would play with Nick Fazekas back in the lineup after missing the last two and a half games.
Very well, as it turned out.
Fazekas had 20 points and 10 rebounds, playing 25 minutes on his sore left ankle and Marcelus Kemp scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half to help Nevada win its 10th in a row Thursday night, 85-75 over Fresno State.
“I felt like it would be a little bit of an adjustment having Nick back because we hadn’t had him for 10 days,” Fox said. “He wasn’t as healthy as we wanted him to be … but I was really pleased that they played together.”
Denis Ikovlev scored a career-high 18 points and Ramon Sessions had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Wolf Pack (17-1, 5-0 in the Western Athletic Conference), who have won 18 in a row over WAC opponents. They are 54-6 at home since the start of the 2003-04 season and off to their best start in school history.
It was the 53rd career double-double and 12th of the season for Fazekas, a 6-foot-11 senior who played with a brace on the left ankle he hurt against Boise State on Jan. 8.
“I had the injury on my mind a little bit but then as the game got in a flow, I was all right,” said Fazekas, who called the ankle “a little bit sore.”
“It’s going to take some time, but I felt good,” he said.
Dominic McGuire had 19 points to lead five players in double figures for Fresno State (13-5, 2-3), which has lost three in a row after winning its first seven.
Hector Hernandez had 13 points, Quinton Hosley and Ja’Vance Colman 12 each and Eddie Miller 10 for the Bulldogs, who were outshot from the field 38 percent to 48 percent and outrebounded 45-35.
“We had 19 assists with only five turnovers, but shot about 35 percent and that’s not good enough to win on the road,” Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said.
“Hosely had his shots around the basket but they didn’t go down. Nevada has got size and can redirect shots,” he said.
Fazekas, who entered the night second in the NCAA in rebounds at 12.1 per game, moved into sixth place on the WAC’s all-time rebounding list with 1,091 and seventh in scoring with 2,137, surpassing Bob Elliott in both cases. Elliott had 1,083 rebounds and 2,131 points playing for Arizona from 1973-77.
Fox said it was a good outing for his three-time defending WAC champions, who are bidding for their fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament and haven’t lost to a WAC team since falling to Utah State 59-52 last Jan. 23 at Reno.
“I see more poise,” Fox said. “I thought we’ve always been confident. I think we’re starting to show some experience from playing together.”
Kemp made consecutive 3-pointers to put Nevada up 61-55 with 10:54 remaining. Hernandez answered with a 3, but Lyndale Burleson matched it, Kemp added another and Kyle Shiloh did the same to make it 72-61 with 5:54 left.
Hosley’s 3-point goal pulled the Bulldogs to 74-67 at 4:31. But Kemp drove the lane for a basket, Ikovlev scored inside off a pass from Fazekas and Fazekas tipped in a lob from Sessions to make it 80-68 at 2:04.
McGuire scored six points in the final 54 seconds, but Sessions made 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch and Shiloh added one to seal the win.
Fresno State guard Kevin Bell said the Wolf Pack showed why they are nationally ranked.
“They made the tough shots and we didn’t,” he said. “Sessions is a smart guard and knows how to run a team. He is tall and a good mid-range player.”
Fazekas had his first two shots blocked but made his next five in a row, including back-to-back 3-pointers from the left baseline and a hook in the lane to give Nevada it’s first lead, 21-19 in the first half.
Nevada opened a 52-46 lead early in the second half when Fazekas made a pair of free throws after the Bulldogs were called for a technical foul for sending six men on the court.
Hernandez made a 3-pointer, McGuire drove the baseline for a slam dunk and Hernandez stole the ball and fed Coleman for a dunk to tie it for the last time, 55-55 at 12:33.
Ikovlev, who surpassed his career high with 10 points in the first half, made 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-8 on 3-pointers.
“I was just open and I was just hitting shots,” he said.
Kemp made 4-of-6 from behind the arc for the Wolf Pack, who made 11-of-25 from long range for 44 percent on the game.