RENO, Nev. (AP)—Louisiana Tech keyed on No. 18 Nevada’s 1-2 scoring punch of Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp, so Wolf Pack point guard Ramon Sessions took advantage.
Sessions had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead Nevada past the Bulldogs 84-67 Thursday night and maintain a share of the lead of the Western Athletic Conference.
“The shots were there for me,” said Sessions, who shot 8-for-12 from the field and 5-for-6 on free throws. “Marcelus and Nick are going to draw help. That makes it easy for me.”
Fazekas added 13 points and Kemp 12 for the Wolf Pack (18-2, 6-1), who trailed by as much as eight early but scored the last four points of the first half to tie the score at 37 and opened the second half with a 10-0 run. Fazekas entered the game averaging 20.4 points and Kemp 19.1.
Chad McKenzie had 19 points and Trey McDowell 17 for Louisiana Tech (6-13, 4-3), which shot 58 percent from the field the first half but only 36 percent the second half.
“They brought great energy that second half,” Louisiana Tech coach Keith Richard said about the Wolf Pack. “They were flying down the floor. We just didn’t match it. It looked like we were in mud. They were flying by us with great energy.
“It was too much for our team. The good news is, a month ago we couldn’t play them like that the first half.”
Denis Ikovlev added nine points on 3-of-4 3-point shooting for the Wolf Pack, who are now 55-6 at home since the start of the 2003-04 season. They are tied for the league lead with New Mexico State, which snapped the Wolf Pack’s 10-game winning streak with an 80-73 win last Saturday at Las Cruces, N.M.
Fazekas had seven rebounds for Nevada, which was outrebounded 16-11 the first half. The Wolf Pack finished with a 30-23 rebound edge and shot 56 percent from the field.
“We played a lot harder the second half. We rebounded and passed the ball well,” Kemp said.
Nevada coach Mark Fox said defense was the key in the second half.
“It led to a lot of transition baskets,” he said. “Our defense gave us a lot of 3-point plays starting the second half, which was something we wanted to try to do. Then we got some stops after that and that allowed us to build a lead.”
Fazekas opened the second half with a three-point play when he was fouled on a 12-foot turnaround to start the 10-0 run. Ikovlev hit a 3 from the top of the key and Kyle Shiloh drove the lane for a dunk before adding a pair of free throws to put Nevada ahead 47-37 with 17:09 left.
Jerome Richardson ended the run with a three-point play, but Sessions answered with the same then threw a three-quarter court pass to Fazekas for a layup and Ikovlev followed with a 3-pointer for a 55-43 lead at 14:12.
Lyndale Burleson’s 3 made it 60-45 with 11 minutes left, but McKenzie scored six points in a row to pull the Bulldogs to 65-43.
Ikovlev hit another 3 and Brandon Fields pulled up for a 10-foot jumper to give Nevada it’s biggest lead, 70-53 at 6:35.
McDowell’s 3-pointer started a 7-0 run for the Bulldogs to cut it to 70-60 but Sessions converted a three-point play, passed to Fazekas for a layup and drove the lane for another score to put it away 79-64 with 2:10 left.
Louisiana Tech scored the first six points of the game and went ahead 11-4 on McKenzie’s 3-pointer. McDowell had consecutive baskets to push the lead to 26-18 at 7:49, but Nevada answered with a 12-4 run including a steal and dunk by Sessions and a turn around bucket by Fazekas on the baseline to tie it 30-30 3:07 before the half.
McKenzie’s 15-footer put the Bulldogs ahead 37-33 with 59 seconds left but Fields scored inside and with 5 seconds on the clock Sessions turned another steal into a breakaway dunk for the 37-37 tie.
Fox said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s start. He hopes for a better one Saturday night when it hosts Utah State (15-5, 4-2).
“There wasn’t a lot of energy in our kids tonight,” Fox said. “That’s when your crowd picks you up. We need to get more energy in our team. They played harder than us the first half, had a lot more energy than we did.”