By Alexa Ard
The Wolf Pack had a quick taste of being one of the top teams in the Mountain West, but it has fallen back to mediocrity within just two weeks.
Nevada stands at No. 5 in the conference after four straight losses, which leaves it at 12-14, 7-6 MW. Its most recent letdowns came against Fresno State at home on Wednesday and away at New Mexico on Saturday.
In the 75-67 loss to Fresno, seniors Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans, Jr. led in scoring with 14 each. However, Burton struggled from the free throw line, which Nevada head coach David Carter thinks affected the team as a whole.
“You can’t get frustrated,” Carter said of Burton. “You got to step up and make some shots. He missed free throws. He missed six in a row at one point. I think that really dictated how the game was going.”
Burton’s frustration was apparent on his face and in his game — 12 of his 14 points didn’t come until the second half. Carter said it was because they decided to not give him the ball, knowing Burton was going to get double-teamed.
“We were trying to get other guys involved,” Carter said.
He was also often seen questioning the referees.
“He’s got to keep his composure, and I did talk to him about that,” Carter said. “He feels like he was getting a little more contact on his drive than some of the other players. So he does get a little frustrated, but he’s got to hold his composure.”
As for the bigs on the team, it was the same type of game, just a different day. Nevada was only outrebounded by the Bulldogs 37-34. However, Fresno State capitalized on second chance points with 14, whereas Nevada only notched six.
“AJ wasn’t helping,” Carter said. “He was staying close to his guy and trying to block shots at the rim. You can’t block shots at the rim; you have to defend at the rim. I thought our big men weren’t getting in position to help tonight.”
The Bulldogs thrived in free throws as well with 22-26, while Nevada only sunk 16-27.
The frustration from Carter was obvious, as he didn’t allow the players to do the post-game interview after the loss to the Bulldogs.
Things only grew worse for Nevada as it left to face the No. 2 team in the Mountain West on Friday without Deonte Burton.
Burton was suffering from the stomach flu. Carter thought flying in the next day would give him a little more time to recover. Still, even with the stomach flu, he put 12 points on the board and tied his season high of eight assists.
Sophomore Cole Huff and Michael Perez each led with 18 points, and the team as a whole finished 43 percent from the field. However, these efforts weren’t enough. The Lobos smashed the Wolf Pack 90-72 in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,411.
The six-foot-nine and 250 pound Cameron Bairstow finished with 24 points, while seven foot and 245 pound Alex Kirk sunk a whopping 29 points for New Mexico. Bairstow’s stats propelled him to become the leading scorer in the Mountain West – stealing the title from Burton. The Australian native topped the Nevada point guard with an average of 20.3 points per game to 20.1.
Of the Lobos’ 90 points, 19 came from the free throw line. The Pack sent New Mexico to the charity stripe 21 times. Nevada saw the line just 12 times and only made seven.
The Pack also had 13 turnovers.
Carter was frustrated with players not being where they needed to be on the court and opponents advancing off of this.
“We only have a few games left,” Carter said. “(We’re in) a dangerous position to be in.”
Carter said the team will be tested in the remaining games because it will now alternate between home game and road game in one week. There are no more stints of two games at home to get healthy. Carter noted this physical challenge, but he sounded more concerned about the Wolf Pack’s mentality in the five games of conference play left.
“They have to do a better job of being mentally more attached to what the game plan is,” Carter said.
Alexa Ard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.