With 0:12 on the game clock and visiting UC Davis holding a slim 83-82 edge, Nevada put the ball in Burton’s hands. Taking an inbounds pass at midcourt, Burton worked around a screen to set up a mismatch against UC Davis forward J.T. Adenreie, then drove the lane, cutting through traffic to drop in the game-winning 6-foot runner with 3.6 seconds remaining for the 84-83 victory Wednesday night.
“I was nervous,” Burton said of having the ball with the game on the line. “I was surprised that they didn’t double. Devonte (Elliott) came and set the on-ball screen. I was going to my left and the big guy stayed with me so I just pulled it back to get a full head of steam and just drove him.”
While Burton said he was nervous, his knack for stealing the show in the closing seconds of contests would suggest he has no anxiety at all. The game-winner was the third the junior guard has hit to save the day for the Wolf Pack in its four victories on the young season.
“Maybe I was amazed a couple of times in the beginning, but not anymore,” Nevada senior guard Malik Story said of Burton’s ability to deliver in the final seconds. “When he has the ball in his hands, I’m comfortable. I’m not really worried about anything. I’m just making sure I get out of the way and my guy doesn’t help. I know he’s going to come through and make the right decision.”
Although Nevada (4-2) was happy to walk out of Lawlor Events Center with the win, Burton’s heroics came as a result of a Pack effort on defense that allowed the Aggies (1-3) to slowly erase a 12-point first half lead, largely in part to 11-of-20 shooting from 3-point range.
“We’ve been doing it the hard way, but we’re finding ways to win,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “We just have to continue to get better. I don’t like where we’re at defensively. I think we’re having too many breakdowns defensively. Guys are blowing assignments that they shouldn’t. We have to eliminate those problems right now.”
After jumping out to a 16-4 advantage at the 13:48 mark of the first, Nevada got into a 3-point shooting contest with UC Davis. The Aggies got hot beyond the arc, hitting three treys to help cut the deficit to 29-25 with 7:15 to play. Following a free throw by Nevada’s Patrick Nyeko, UC Davis put together an 8-0 run, spurred by triples from Josh Ritchart and Ryan Sypkens to take a 33-30 lead, its first since the opening two minutes.
The Wolf Pack responded with a trio of threes of its own from Burton, Story and Jordan Burris to retake the lead at 39-34 with 2:35 left until halftime, en route to a 41-36 advantage at the intermission.
Nevada held its edge five minutes into the second half, maintaining a slight lead with the scoreboard reading 52-45 in favor of the Pack, but the Aggies surged back. Stringing together a nine-point spurt, UC Davis took a 54-52 advantage. From there, the two sides traded buckets as the lead changed hands eight times in the final 10 minutes, setting up Burton’s fireworks.
Burton led the Pack to victory with 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Story added 23 points, while Burris chipped in 11 points and four boards.
UC Davis had four players in double digits, led by Sypkens with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from three.
Nevada will host Drake Friday with tip set for 7 p.m, where it will look to shore up its defensive end.
"I talked about that after the game,” Carter said. “I said, ‘You’re beating yourselves and you’re going to find yourselves on the other end of the scoreboard if you keep playing this way.'"