Basketball: Wolf Pack cruises in season opener
The Nevada Wolf Pack discovered Saturday night that it sometimes takes only a good 20 minutes of basketball to win a game.
“We had good energy in the first half but in the second half it just wasn’t there,” said guard Armon Johnson after the Wolf Pack’s 75-61 season-opening victory over the Montana State Bobcats at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack shot 72 percent in the opening half and just 36 percent in the second half. Montana State actually outscored the Pack in the second half, 30-25.
“I think we came out in the second half overconfident and that’s what happens when you disrespect your opponent,” said first-year head coach David Carter. “We need to fix that.”
The Pack, though, needed little more than a 14-0 run midway through the first half to take control of the non-conference game. Ray Kraemer (10 points), Johnson and Brandon Fields (14 points) hit 3-pointers during the run as the Pack took a 26-10 lead.
Fields and Babbitt also hit back-to-back threes later in the first half as the Wolf Pack outscored the Bobcats 24-3 over a six-minute stretch in the opening half, opening up a 36-13 lead.
“That’s how we have to play the whole game,” said Babbitt, who had 13 points in each half. “We want to run more this year and put pressure on teams and it’s just a matter of doing that all the time.”
Johnson scored all 16 of his points in the first half as the Wolf Pack all but ran the out-manned Bobcats out of the gym. Montana State played the game with just eight players because two of their starters (Will Bynum and Marquis Navarre) are ineligible for the first three games of the season for playing in a non-sanctioned summer basketball event.
“We have to learn how to play two good halves,” Babbitt said. “It’s all about striving to be a perfect basketball team. We know we have to play better in the second half if we want to be able to compete in our next four games.”
The Wolf Pack’s next four games are at UNLV (Nov. 18), Virginia Commonwealth (Nov. 27) and North Carolina (Nov. 29) and at home against Houston (Nov. 21).
“We just have to be better mentally prepared to play an entire game,” Fields said. “All of that will come in time.”
When the Wolf Pack played well against Montana State they played very, very well. The Pack hit seven of its 11 first-half 3-point attempts as Kraemer was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The 3-pointer, Carter said, needs to be a big part of this Pack offense this year.
“Ray Kraemer’s a good shooter, Luke and Armon are good shooters, Brandon is a good shooter, Joey Shaw is a good shooter,” Carter said. “We have a lot of good shooters on this team. I want them taking that shot if they are open. I want them taking the first good shot they get.”
Babbitt, Johnson and Fields ended up taking 40 of the Pack’s 53 shots (75 percent). The three combined to shoot 60 percent and score 56 of the team’s 75 points.
“I’d like to see better shot distribution than that,” Carter said. “But those three guys are going to be our leading scorers. All three of them shoot a good percentage. I want them taking most of our shots.
“But, yes, I’d like to see Joey Shaw (1-of-5 for the game) and Dario Hunt (0-for-1) take more attempts. But those guys know that every game is different, every challenge is different. It’s not about how many shots you get, it’s about helping the team win.”
The Pack played basically just eight players as freshman Patrick Nyeko and junior Adam Carp never got off the bench and another freshman, Keith Fuetsch, played just two minutes.
“That’s going to be a work in progress,” said Carter of the way he utilizes his bench this season. “As the season goes along those guys will get more minutes. We know we’re going to need them when our conference season gets going in January.”