RENO - Thank goodness for exhibition games. But depending on who you talk to, the Nevada men's basketball team might be ready the 2001-2002 regular season opener next Saturday at Cal-State Northridge.
"Physically, I believe we're ready," said Wolf Pack point guard Andre Hazel. "Let's get the show on the road."
That's not how coach Trent Johnson sees it heading into the season opener. After all, he just witnessed his team win an uneventful 80-71 exhibition game over Next Level Sports on Friday night before an announced crowd of 1,077 at the Lawlor Events Center.
Terrance Green scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting while Garry Hill-Thomas added 14 and Hazel 11 in the Wolf Pack's second win over Next Level Sports. They also beat the touring team 81-72 last week.
The Wolf Pack led the entire game, eventually building a 47-29 halftime lead, their largest of the game. Nevada shot 61 percent from the field in the first half.
But the Wolf Pack couldn't find a way to put away Next Level Sports in the second half. Kevin Rice's free throw with 5:56 remaining in the game pulled Next Level to within eight points, 66-58, before Green and Hill-Thomas took over. Both guards scored two baskets apiece in an 8-0 run following Rice's free throws that finished off Next Level, who travels to Logan, Utah for a game tonight against Utah State.
"We played good basketball in the first half," Green said. "The second half, it was the old story for us. In the locker room (after the game), nobody was really pleased."
The Wolf Pack turned the ball over 14 times in the second half and had only six assists. Their guards were responsible for most of them. Hazel had only one assist in the second half and turned the ball over five times.
"I thought the second half was pretty bad basketball on our part," Johnson said. "We didn't take care of the basketball. Our guard play was atrocious. If our assist to turnover ratio is as bad as it was tonight next Saturday, we'll struggle."
Matt Ochs and Sean Paul each added eight points for Nevada.
"We executed a lot better (than the first time we played them)," Hazel said. "Defensively, we didn't attain our goals."
Next Level was led by Shawn Daniels and Michael Nurse, who both finished with 13 points. Ramel Lloyd had 11 points. Courtney James, a member of the Minnesota's 1997 NCAA Final Four team, had quiet night, finishing with only five points and three rebounds.
Wolf Pack Notebook
HAZEL COMES OFF THE BENCH
Nevada point guard Andre Hazel was held out of the starting lineup on Friday night because he was late to practice and math class, according to Wolf Pack coach Trent Johnson.
His replacement was former Sparks High grad, London Wilson. Wilson played 17 minutes and recorded one assist and two rebounds, but didn't score.
Hazel, an member of the all-WAC newcomer team a year ago, enjoyed his role of coming off the bench.
"Coming off the bench really opened my eyes a little bit and I saw what I needed to do offensively and defensively," said Hazel, who ended up playing 32 minutes, finishing with 11 points.
NICE DEBUT FOR AUSSIE
Nevada's Jason Eversteyn, a 7-foot-1 transfer, finished with four points and six rebounds in only five minutes of action. He only played one minute in the first half, but came up with two points, two rebounds, and one blocked shot during the span.
"It was good to get into the game," Eversteyn said. "I got in and contributed where I could. I was happy with what I did."
"I thought he was productive," Johnson said. "That's always encouraging but I'm curious to see how he does in a different situation."
The sparse crowd at the Lawlor Events Center cheered on the red-headed Aussie whenever he was on the court.
"I noticed the crowd a little bit, but I didn't think about it during the game,"Eversteyn said.
GREEN BOUNCES BACK
Guard Terrance Green, who was just 1-for-10 in last week's game with Next Level Sports, led all scorers with 26 points on Friday. The 6-foot-2 junior guard played 35 of a possible 40 minutes. He also had five assists and six rebounds.
"I looked at what I did last game and set a goal for myself to play well," Green said. "I was just disappointed with how I played last time, but I really wanted to get a 'W' tonight."
ROUGH ROAD AHEAD FOR NEXT LEVEL SPORTS
After playing Utah State tonight in Logan, Utah, Next Level's last three games are against Oregon, UCLA, and UNLV. They've only won two exhibition games this season (Southern Utah and Kansas State). In all, they'll play 11 games.