After sticking with Tigers, Wolf Pack slips off course
Nevada goes cold after botching chance to tie score
Monday, March 19, 2007
By Brian Allee-Walsh, New Orleans Times Picayune
For nearly 33 minutes Sunday at the New Orleans Arena, Nevada made it appear Memphis had stepped on a sizable wad of gum.
No matter what the Tigers did, they could not shake free from a sticky substance from the Western Athletic Conference known as the Wolf Pack.
Finally, seventh-seeded Nevada went stone cold from the field, committed several turnovers and second-seeded Memphis pulled away down the stretch, winning 78-62 to advance to the Sweet 16 in the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers (32-3) will face Texas A&M on Thursday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"We battled, and we hung in there," Nevada Coach Mark Fox said. "We came here to win -- make no mistake about that -- and we thought we were going to win. As I told our kids, it's a small consolation, but you lost to a very good team, and we've had a fine season ourselves."
After closing to 64-62 on two free throws by senior All-American forward Nick Fazekas with 6:17 remaining, the Wolf Pack went into a shooting funk.
Nevada (29-5) missed its last seven shots, turning a close game into a 16-point loss.
"I told Nick and (guard) Kyle (Shiloh) in the locker room that this senior class has given so much to our community, our university, our state and everyone that's associated with this program," Fox said. "More importantly, they've given our basketball program a tradition, and no one can take that away.
"(Nick) has left a legacy that will be hard to measure up against. He knows the impact that he has made on me as a person and our community and our team. One miss will not define what he has done."
The miss Fox referred to came with 5:02 remaining and Memphis clinging to a 64-62 lead. Shiloh stripped the ball from Memphis forward Robert Dozier and pushed the ball upcourt to Fazekas, who was in position to tie the score.
But Fazekas missed an uncontested jumper in the lane, and teammate Marcelus Kemp picked up his fourth foul fighting for a rebound. Antonio Anderson extended Memphis' lead to 66-62 with two free throws, and Nevada never recovered.
"That's a shot that I make nine out of 10 times," said Fazekas, who scored a game-high 20 points and had seven rebounds. "That could have changed the whole game because we would have had a little momentum, and the game would have been tied. There was still quite a bit of time left. That's how the night went.
"Marcelus got called for a foul, and that totally changed the momentum because they went down and shot free throws. If that shot would have gone in, there is no telling what could have happened."
Nevada was forced to play from behind from the outset, holding its only lead of the game at 2-0 on Kemp's midrange jumper with 18:15 remaining in the first half.
Memphis outscored Nevada in bench points 31-2 and converted 26 of 34 free-throw attempts, including 21 of 27 in the second half.
Kemp and Denis Ikovlev contributed 18 and 11 points for the Wolf Pack.
"We had trouble guarding them the last seven minutes," Fazekas said. "We were forced to foul, and maybe we ran out of gas, I don't know. We were playing as hard as we could, and that's just how it ended."
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Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3805.