Nevada (3-4 overall) has won all three of its home games.
“I told the guys before the season started you’ve got to take care of home,” Nevada coach David Carter said. You want to protect home. You want to come out and play as hard as you can on your home court because it’s so tough to win on the road as we know.”
The Wolf Pack jumped on the Sunbirds early in the game and never looked back. Joey Shaw hit back-to-back 3-point baskets to start things off, giving Nevada a 6-2 lead. Two 3-point plays by Luke Babbitt separated by an alley-oop from Armon Johnson to Babbitt gave Nevada its first double digit lead, 16-6.
The Sunbirds (7-2) had a four-minute long dry spell, while Nevada scored 12 straight for a 34-17 edge with 8:20 left on the first-half clock. The run was capped by a Dario Hunt alley-oop, assisted by Johnson.
Nevada, which had not played a home game in the last two and a half weeks, was able to get its entire bench some time on the court. The win was much needed for the Pack, which struggled during its road trip losing three in a row. Nevada is winless on the road so far this season.
“We need to play better,” Babbitt said. “We had to come out and prove to everyone that we can play good basketball. For the most part, we did that tonight. It wasn’t a perfect game.”
Nevada shot 67.7 percent from the field in the first half while FPU shot 43 percent. Fresno missed all eight of its 3-point attempts. Nevada made good on 5-of-10 in the first half from beyond the arc.
While the shooting pace slowed down in the second half, Nevada didn’t let up and it was never really threatened by the Sunbirds.
The Wolf Pack kicked off the second half with a jumper by Johnson just 14 seconds in. A dunk by Babbitt pushed the margin to 70-43 with over 11 minutes left to play.
“You try not to get satisfied,” Johnson said of the lopsided win. “We know we’ve got to win, but we’re still not where we want to be as a team. We try not get satisfied with it … It feels good to be back home, having some support and just trying to build a win streak.”
The lopsided score allowed for Nevada coach David Carter to get some of his inexperienced players some extra court time.
Reserve Marko Cukic got a bucket for Nevada on an assist by Adam Carp that made the score 81-63 en route to the 89-67 final.
“It’s a lot more enjoyable to see everybody get out there and show what they can do,” Johnson said. “We know we’ve got a pretty deep team so we try and get everybody working and it’s going good for us. It went good for us tonight.”
Carter said that one of the toughest things is to get a team pumped up and ready for a game against an opponent that is nearly a guaranteed victory.
“You know you’re better than a team. You’re probably better at all five positions on the floor, both physically and mentally and just to keep them motivated can be difficult,” Carter said. “You build a lead up to 18, 20 points, and you get complacent. We’re trying to overcome that and not get complacent and keep playing hard. It is difficult and that’s part of the competition.”
Johnson led Nevada with 19 points and seven assists. Babbitt put in 16 with 10 rebounds. Brandon Fields and Shaw chipped in 10 points apiece.
James Lewis Jr. scored 18 for Fresno Pacific and Todd Brown added 12 for the Sunbirds.
Nevada is back in action Saturday when it hosts South Dakota State at 7:05 p.m. Saturday’s contest is the second of four straight home games for the Wolf Pack.