Nevada captured an 88-79 win in a Western Athletic Conference clash at Hawaii. The Wolf Pack strengthened its grip on the top spot in the WAC with the win, improving to 20-4 overall and 9-1 in league tilts.
Not only did Nevada rebound from a tough loss, it rebounded again and again Thursday night throughout the 40 minutes of action. The Wolf Pack enjoyed a 46-27 edge in the rebounding column, an advantage that included 19 offensive rebounds to Hawaii’s seven.
“They pounded us on the boards,” Hawaii coach Gib Arnold said. “They really dominated our bigs. They beat us up.”
The league affair was knotted at 48-48 with 16:42 to go in the second half after Hawaii’s Hauns Brereton knocked down a jumper. That was as it good as it got for the hosts. Nevada answered with a 3-pointer from Jerry Evans and a reverse scoop shot from Malik Story to take a 53-48 lead. Nevada never trailed again nor did Hawaii ever tie the game again.
Still, it took Nevada awhile to pull away. The margin was still four, 63-59, after a spinning jumper by Hawaii’s Vander Joaquim midway through the second half.
Nevada responded with an 8-3 spurt that pushed its lead back to nine, 71-62. Olek Czyz ended the mini run with a runner in the lane, that tied the Wolf Pack’s biggest lead of the night to that point.
Hawaii (13-10, 5-4) scored the next five points and got as close as four points, 71-67, with just over five minutes to go. The school from the islands could get no closer.
The Wolf Pack reeled off the next eight points, extending its lead to a game-high 12 points, 79-67. Czyz had a putback while Deonte Burton and Story drilled 3-pointers to highlight the run.
That outburst essentially sealed the win for the Pack as the two teams traded points the rest of the way.
“I felt some guys didn’t come to play tonight,” Arnold said. “It’s unfortunate in a game like this. You’d hope you get their best shot. Give Nevada credit. They came in here and took one from us at home. It’s a tough place to play, but they beat us and beat us good.”
Despite trailing most of the first half, Hawaii was able to take a 39-36 lead into the locker room at the intermission. Hawaii trailed by three, 36-33 after Burton converted on a three-point play with 2:32 left before the break.
Hawaii then ripped off the last six points of the first half, all in the final 1:39, to account for its three-point halftime lead.
Nevada led 14-11 five minutes into the game, but scored nine of the next 12 points. The burst, capped by a Patrick Nyeko 3-pointer at the 13:29 mark of the first half, forged the Wolf Pack ahead 23-14.
Nevada’s lead was still eight, 24-16, after a Jordan Burris free throw with 9:33 showing on the first-half clock. That’s when Hawaii began to chip away. The Warriors outscored Nevada 17-9 over the next six minutes, pulling into a 33-33 deadlock after Joston Thomas made good on two foul shots with 2:55 left before halftime.
All five Nevada starters finished in double figures in the scoring column. Burton led the way with 20 points, while Story added 19. Czyz and Dario Hunt chipped in 15 apiece, while Evans contributed 12 to the win.
Four Warriors hit for double digits. Thomas finished with 18. Brereton and Jeremiah Ostrowski had 17 and 15 points respectively, while Joaquim threw in 14.
Nevada returns to the hardwood Saturday when it plays at San Jose State. Tip-off is set for 8:05 p.m.