The Nevada Wolf Pack fell 67-59 at home to Idaho for its second loss to this opponent this season. It also dropped a 72-67 game against the Vandals back on Jan. 12.
Nevada began the battle for third place in the WAC with five straight points from freshman Deonte Burton and junior Olek Czyz. Pack fans had reasons to believe this might be an easy night.
It wasn’t even close to being easy.
The Wolf Pack suddenly found it difficult to finish around the rim. In the time it took the Vandals to build up a 9-5 lead, freshman Jerry Evens missed two dunks and junior Dario Hunt missed two layups. Missed jumpers and turnovers were sprinkled all over that time period also.
“When we started missing layups and got outscored by nine, we put our heads down, “ said Nevada coach David Carter. “We just started getting tight and our energy went away.”
The Pack had a tough shooting night also, going 22-of-60. That’s good for 36 percent. One positive that came out of this bleak stat was that Hunt had a monster night on the glass as he pulled down 19 boards to go along with six points and two blocked shots.
Nevada’s largest deficit was at 17-9 with 10:35 left in the first half. Fortunately for the Pack, its defense kept it in the game while its offense tried to sort itself out. It fought to get the score to within 29-26 with just 10 seconds to go in the first.
Sophomore Malik Story beat the buzzer with a floater that came from beyond the 3-point line to usher in the intermission.
“We were stagnant,” said Burton. “We had too many turnovers, poor execution, careless passes, a lot of unforced turnovers actually.”
Nevada took a brief lead at 31-29 thanks to a Burton layup early in the second half but that would be the last time it would see the lead.
Idaho’s Jeff Ledbetter was a thorn in the Pack’s side throughout the game. He finished with a game-high 25 points. The Vandals eventually widened their lead late in the second half to nine points with the help of Ledbetter’s ability to sink clutch shots.
Vandal Brandon Wiley made a layup with 2:42 left to increase the lead to 59-48, Idaho’s largest lead of the game.
Nevada then went on a furious rally to close the gap to within 61-59 but could not get over the hump to take the lead.
“We all need to show up every time we play, all 13 of us,“ Czyz said. “We can’t come out and expect just five guys to do everything for us. It has to be a collective effort.”
The Pack will next host Boise St. at home on Saturday to keep its grasp on fourth place in the WAC. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m.