No. 10 Nevada 88, Idaho 56
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP)—Nevada is trying to make sure it’s well rested for what the No. 10 Wolf Pack hope will be an extended run in the NCAA tournament.
Marcelus Kemp scored 14 points and coach Mark Fox gave his starters plenty of down time in an 88-56 win over Idaho in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament Thursday.
Not only did the starters catch a breather, but Nevada’s reserves, including three freshmen, got some significant playing time that may come in handy down the road.
“They needed the experience, period,” Fox said. “It’s the first time they’ve played as a group over an extended period of time. I was really pleased they were able to get some minutes and string them together.”
Only one starter, guard Ramon Sessions, played more than 20 minutes.
The Wolf Pack (28-3) hit their first five shots and didn’t need three-time conference player of the year Nick Fazekas to quickly put away the smaller, younger and overmatched Vandals (4-27).
“We played very well to open the game and establish a lead, then we were able to get lots of guys some good time,” Fox said.
Kemp, who at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds has the quickness of a guard and strength of a power forward, got the run going with a 10-foot jumper and a 3-pointer. The Wolf Pack built a 12-3 lead 3 minutes into the game. By the time Fazekas scored on a baseline hook with 11:54 left in the first half, the lead was 28-10.
Idaho never posed a threat against Nevada, which didn’t hesitate to go deep into its bench. Ten Wolf Pack players scored in the first half as the lead grew to 49-24 by halftime.
“Nevada is actually really good,” first-year Idaho coach George Pfeifer said with a smile. “They just shot the cover off the ball and we kind of got back on our heels. Every time we turned around, the ball was going in the hole.”
Idaho, the ninth seed in the conference tournament, was led by freshman David Jackson with 17 points and guard Keoni Watson with 15. The Vandals, who snapped a 12-game losing streak with a win over San Jose State in the tournament’s play-in game Tuesday night, got no closer than 76-52 in the second half.
Fazekas, who came into the tournament averaging 21 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, took just two shots and had only two points in the first half. For a while, his 58-game streak of double-figure scoring appeared in jeopardy, but he took care of that by scoring the Wolf Pack’s first six points of the second half and added a jumper in the lane with 13:12 left.
He finished with a season-low 10 points, but managed a double-double with 10 rebounds. His backup, 7-foot-1 junior David Ellis, scored a season-high 11 points.
Even with its starters on the bench, Nevada, which tied the school record for wins in a single season, was a study in efficiency in the decisive first half. The Wolf Pack hit 20 of 34 shots, went 5-for-10 on 3-pointers and had just three turnovers.