RENO - It was a sub-par performance to be sure, but Nevada was philosophical about it.
The 20th-ranked Wolf Pack, despite looking lethargic at times and shooting just 37.5 percent from the field, upended Norfolk State 56-46 in a nonconference basketball game Tuesday night before crowd of 5,949 at Lawlor Events Center.
"You're not going to beat everybody by 30 points," said Nevada coach Mark Fox, who watched his team improve to 9-1. "You are not going to play beautiful basketball every night. The bottom line is we won, and that's the object of the game.
"We have to learn to play with a lead. We defended well for 10 to 12 minutes. We didn't defend nearly as well after that. You have to give them some of the credit. The ball didn't go in for us tonight."
Indeed. Other than Nick Fazekas, who went 6 for 9 from the field en route to 14 points and Marcelus Kemp who was 6-for- 13 for 15 points, almost everybody else struggled. The rest of the team went 9 for 34, including a 2-for-8 effort by the normally dependable Mo Charlo, whose nine-game double-digit scoring streak ended. Charlo finished with a season-low six points.
Not surprisingly, Fox refused to blame the early start (5 p.m.) for his team's woes.
"It didn't feel any different," Fox said. "I didn't do a good job of getting them ready to play. That's my responsibility."
And, Nevada players said they didn't take the 2-9 Spartans lightly.
"Norfolk State is a great team," sophomore point guard Ramon Sessions said. "We knew they would come in and play their best game. They brought their A game and played well."
Norfolk State coach Dwight Freeman just kind of rolled his eyes when informed that Nevada players said that the Spartans brought their A game.
"I don't think we played exactly an A game," Freeman said. "We went about 12 minutes without scoring in the first half. We didn't execute well. We missed, in my opinion, open shots that we have to make. (Tony) Murphy was not making any threes, and we have to have him put the ball in the hole."
Norfolk State went without a field goal for 14 minutes in the first half and without a point for nearly 10 minutes en route to a 21 percent effort from the field. On a normal night, Nevada would have a huge lead, however this wasn't a normal game.
Leading 11-6 with 13:14 left in the opening half, Nevada went on a 10-0 run to open a 21-6 lead. Fazekas, who started the surge with a tip-in, had six points in the run. Lyndale Burleson and Kemp added a bucket apiece. The Spartans sliced the deficit to 26-14 at the half thanks to a hook by Larry Vickers, a layup in transition by Casey Gordon and a putback slam by Jakeel Gary.
Norfolk State had a 22-17 rebound edge in the first half, including eight at the offensive end, and you know Fox wasn't happy about it. Nevada finished with a 41-38 edge.
"We got outhustled," Fox said. "For 30 minutes, they led us on the boards. We got outhustled which is disappointing."
"That's (rebounding) what they do best," Fazekas said. "That's how they are going to win games. We rebounded poorly and still won."
Nevada opened the second half with baskets by Fazekas and Charlo, the latter a putback slam, to take its biggest lead of the game, 30-14. The Spartans roared back with a 13-2 run thanks to two 3-pointers by Keith Young, trimming the lead to 32-27.
Nevada got the lead to double digits when Denis Ikovlev and Kemp hit back-to-back treys to make it 38-27.
Ikovlev is starting to play a few more minutes each game, and Fox said that he is coming along.
"He needs more minutes," Fox said. "He needs to develop confidence. Hopefully we can build on that (tonight's game)."
Norfolk State sliced the lead to 39-30, but Kemp hit a layup and knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 44-30. The game stayed between 10 and 14 points over the final five-plus minutes.
Kemp didn't attend the post-game press conference because he wasn't feeling well, according to Nevada officials.
"We're going to play hard," Freeman said. "They have always been willing to play hard. We're going to defend. We're not going to let you do what you want to do. We held Nick to 14 points, and he's a big-time player."
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281