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Nevada bounces back, beats Idaho
by Dan Eckles
Jan 16, 2010 | 542 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO - The Nevada Wolf Pack showed no lingering effects from a late collapse against Utah State three days after their heart-breaking home loss to the Aggies. In fact, Nevada rebounded in fine fashion, downing Idaho 68-76 in a Western Athletic Conference contest Saturday night in front of 6,030 at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada, which had its perfect home mark blemished in a seven-point nationally-televised loss to Utah State on Wednesday, grabbed a lead late in the first half and never relinquished it, improving to 11-7 overall and 3-2 in conference clashes. The Wolf Pack is now 9-1 in the friendly confines of its Reno home court.

"It was a good win, a good bounce-back win," Nevada's sophomore forward Luke Babbitt said. "We needed this one coming out after Wednesday. We played a good 40 minutes ... We didn't say anything about it. But Wednesday will always be in the back of my mind, probably forever."

Babbitt finished with a team-high 19 points to lead four Wolf Pack players in double figures.

Idaho (8-8, 1-4 WAC) got a reverse layup from Luiz Toledo three and a half minutes into the second half. The bucket got the Vandals within six, 40-34. Idaho was never that close again.

Nevada responded with a 10-2 burst capped by a Ray Kraemer 3-pointer. The trey forged the Wolf Pack ahead 55-41 with 12:09 to go in the league affair. The 14-point difference was the biggest gap of the game.

"Nevada did a good job of changing its defenses," second-year Idaho coach Don Verlin said. "In their man, they picked up their pressure. They did a good job of getting their hands on some balls and getting stops. That got them into their transition and that's what they're good at it."

Idaho never really threw a scare into Nevada down the stretch. The Vandals could get no closer than nine in the final two minutes before Luciano De Souza dropped in a layup with 12 seconds to go, accounting for the final eight-point margin.

Idaho did win the rebounding battle, 36-29, but it was the only major statistical category the Moscow, Idaho school led. Nevada shot better, 25-of-51 compared to Idaho's 27-60. The biggest key to the Wolf Pack's win was its advantage at the charity stripe. Nevada got to the foul line 31 times and made 21, but Idaho only got five free-throw attempts. The Vandals did make all five.

Nevada forced 16 Idaho turnovers and converted them into 18 points.

Armon Johnson scored 17 points to help the Wolf Pack's winning cause, while Joey Shaw and Brandon Fields contributed 15 and 14.

Nevada made a late first-half run to grab a 36-30 lead at the break. The Wolf Pack trailed 26-22 after a dunk by Idaho's Marvin Jefferson with 6:25 to go before halftime. However, Nevada closed the first half on a 14-4 run to account for its lead at the intermission.

Johnson converted on a three-point play and a pull-up jumper in the lane on Nevada's last two possessions of the first half as the Pack scored the final seven points before halftime.

"Anytime you get the momentum going to the second half that's huge," Nevada coach David Carter said. "We finished the half and that's very important. We talk about that a lot ... That was huge for us."

Idaho led by as much as 10 in the first 20 minutes. Vandals guard Steffan Johnson knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key and Idaho had a 21-11 lead at the 10:14 mark of the first half. Nevada responded with an 11-3 outburst to keep the conference clash tight.

"I thought we did a great job of executing our game plan early," Verlin said. "We did a good job of pushing the ball and getting some easy looks. We did a good job with our delay stuff. And then they missed some shots they usually make and we rebounded well. But you have to give them credit. They're a good team, well-coached and they did a number of things to get us out of our game."

Nevada helped its cause by limiting Idaho point guard Mac Hopson. The Vandals' leading scorer did put up a team-high 16 points, but he played just 25 minutes after being plagued by foul trouble and eventually fouling out in the final minute.

"When you get in foul trouble, that takes away from your aggressiveness," Carter said of Hopson. "He was not on the floor and they had a back-up point guard. I think that made a difference."

Johnson and Toledo chipped in 13 and 12 points respectively for Idaho.

Nevada returns to the hardwood Wednesday night when it goes to Boise State for a 7:15 p.m. WAC game.
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