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Wolf Pack escapes with 77-74 win
by Dan Eckles
Jan 14, 2012 | 673 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Nevada’s Deonte Burton elevates for an attempted shot block against Hawaii.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Nevada’s Deonte Burton elevates for an attempted shot block against Hawaii.
RENO — Maybe all good things do come to an end but for Nevada basketball, its home dominance against Hawaii isn’t one of them, at least not yet.

Despite leading for much of the second half, Hawaii fell to 0-15 all time in Reno as Nevada handed its guests from the islands a 77-74 loss in front of 5,452 fans at Lawlor Events Center Saturday night.

Hawaii scored the first basket of the second half and went on top 36-35. The Warriors looked ready to snap their skid in the Truckee Meadows as they wound up extending their edge to seven three different times. The last of those times came at 70-63 after Hawaii big man Vander Joaquim converted a 3-point play with 4:48 remaining in the Western Athletic Conference clash.

Unfortunately for Hawaii, that’s when things started to unravel. Nevada scored the next 10 points of the game and for all intents and purposes stole the win.

The run started when Malik Story recognized a Hawaii defender backing up as he got the Wolf Pack into its half-court offense. So Story pulled the trigger and buried a trey from the top of the key.

Pack point guard Deonte Burton took over from there. He buried a 15-foot jumper, then canned a pair of foul shots to deadlock the score at 70-70. Then he knocked down an off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key to forge Nevada back on top, 73-70, its first lead since halftime. Burton’s heroics came on consecutive possessions.

A Burton jumper with 38 seconds left gave Nevada a 75-71 advantage but Hawaii’s Zane Johnson dropped a 3-point bomb from the wing, trimming Nevada’s lead to one with 28 ticks remaining.

The 3-pointer proved to be the final points of the night for Hawaii. Story iced the win with a pair of free throws at the 10-second mark, accounting for the final three-point margin.

“I think the guys payed as hard as they have all season,” Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said. “We just didn’t finish the game.”

Nevada helped its cause by limiting Johnson. Hawaii’s sharp-shooting guard came into the game averaging 15-plus points per contest but was held to 11 Saturday on 4-of-13 shooting.

“We tried to make him work hard for everything. We really wanted him to earn all of his points,” Nevada coach David Carter said, alluding to Johnson.

Joaquim and Joston Thomas made up for Johnson’s off night. Hawaii’s dynamic front-court duo combined to make 16-of-25 shots from the floor and finished with 22 and 21 points respectively.

“They’re a good team,” Burton said of Hawaii. “They ran their offense efficiently. We couldn’t get stops. They’re just a good team. It was a good game all around.”

The win is Nevada’s 11th straight. It’s the program’s longest streak since the 2005-06 squad won 14 in a row. Nevada (14-3, 4-0 WAC) has not lost since falling 76-55 to BYU in Chicago on Nov. 25.

On Saturday, neither team could pull away in the first half. The Wolf Pack’s largest lead before the break was five, on two occasions. The second of those came after a Jerry Evans tip-in with 1:21 left in the first half.

Hawaii (10-7, 2-1) responded with a pair of free throws and a putback of its own in the final 47 seconds and trailed by only one at halftime, 35-34.

Hawaii’s biggest lead of the first 20 minutes was three, at 7-4 four minutes into the contest. The Warriors last lead of of the first half came at 28-27 following a Johnson 3-pointer with just over three minutes left before the intermission.

Nevada proceeded to score eight of the next 10 points and grab its 35-30 lead.

Burton torched the Hawaii defense for a game-high 25 points while Czyz, who was 11-of-14 shooting, wrapped up his night with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Story added 15 points to the winning cause.

“In the first half he was struggling,” Carter said of Burton. “We talked in the second that he had to be a little more aggressive. We knew he was ready to go.”

Hawaii actually shot the ball better Saturday night, 29-of-58 (50 percent), compared to Nevada’s 27-of-59 (45.8). However, Nevada was a solid 18-of-22 from the charity stripe while Hawaii was just 12-of-17.

Despite Hawaii’s bigger front line, Nevada still won the rebounding battle 35-32 and had fewer turnovers, 15-12.

The Wolf Pack returns to the court Tuesday when it hosts Nebraska-Omaha at 7 p.m.
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