The Nevada Wolf Pack found out just how deep its bench truly is this season on Thursday night.
The Wolf Pack, with starting point guard Deonte Burton playing a career-low 13 minutes, pounded the Portland Pilots 78-60 at Lawlor Events Center for its sixth consecutive victory.
Burton wasn't included the official crowd count of 3,651 but he could have been since he spent the majority of the game on the bench because of foul trouble. The sophomore played just three minutes in the second half and finished the evening with just two points, equaling his career low.
"This game shows we can play and win easily without our leader," said Pack coach David Carter, whose team has won nine of its last 10 games to improve to 9-3. "This is a nice confidence builder for us."
They didn't do it all without Burton, the team leader in minutes played (31.5), scoring (15.2 points) and assists (49) coming into the game. Burton played a big part (two steals, two assists) in a 22-0 run that saw the Pack open up a commanding 34-8 lead with 8:30 to play in the first half.
Jerry Evans scored eight points during the run on a pair of 3-pointers and a short jumper. Kevin Panzer came off the bench to cap off the run with a 3-pointer.
"It's been a long time since we had a run like that," Carter said. "That's a lot of points. 22 is pretty impressive. I didn't even realize it was 22 points."
It happened too quickly to notice. The Pack scored those 22 points in just 5:17.
The loss of Burton for the bulk of the second half also happened quickly.
The 6-foot-1 Burton, who had led the Pack in scoring in three of its last four games, picked up his third foul 21 seconds into the second half. He then went to the bench and when he returned three minutes later he almost immediately picked up his fourth foul.
"Whenever you have your leader go out in the first couple minutes of the half, it changes everybody's roles," Carter said.
The Pack, which led 46-26 at halftime, saw its 34-8 lead in the first half evaporate down to just 53-44 with 10:29 to go in the second half. With Burton on the bench, the Pack scored just seven points over the first 10:25 of the second half.
"Without Deonte we were kind of standing around at first," Carter said.
"We came out flat in the second half," said senior Dario Hunt, who had his fourth consecutive double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Backup point guards Jordan Finn and Keith Fuetsch then revitalized the Pack offense and defense.
With Fuetsch on the floor, the Pack went on a 10-0 run to take control of the game once again at 63-44 with 8:25 to go. Defense keyed the run as Evans had three steals in a span of just 35 seconds.
Evans, who had 11 points and four steals, had a three-point play for a 56-44 lead to ignite the Pack uprising. Fuetsch had a layup off an Evans steal and Olek Czyz (15 points) scored five points to cap off the 71-second run. Finn then preserved the lead until Burton stepped back onto the floor in the final two minutes.
Fuetsch, a Bishop Manogue High grad, played 12 minutes and had five points and an assist while Finn played 15 minutes and had five points, three rebounds and an assist.
Both backup point guards were 2-of-4 from the field and both were 1-of-2 from 3-point distance.
"I was already confident in my ability," Finn said. "But this was obviously a confidence booster."
Burton, who has started since the first game of his freshman year, had never played less than 20 minutes in a game in his career.
"Those guys played great," said Hunt of Fuetsch and Finn. "They ran our offense well and kept up the intensity on defense. They are a big reason why we kept things going in the second half."
Burton still had more assists (three) and steals (two) in just 13 minutes than Finn and Fuetsch had in 27 combined minutes (two assists, no steals).
So nobody in silver and blue was suggesting Thursday night that a change is needed at point guard.
"I just wanted to come in and stay level-headed and do my role," Finn said.
The Pack, which shot 50% (28-of-56), had eight players score between five and 15 points. Czyz, Hunt and Evans were a combined 19-of-27 from the floor. The bench (Panzer had six points) was a combined 8-of-16 from the floor for 25 points (Portland's bench scored just 12 points as the Pilots fell to 3-10).
"Deonte is a big part of what we do but we are a team," Carter said. "There will be nights when we need other players to step up."