Basketball: Wolf Pack opens season with exhibition win
David Carter expected his new Nevada Wolf Pack players to battle some opening game jitters Tuesday night.
“I thought they would be a little more nervous,” said Carter after the Wolf Pack’s 86-75 exhibition victory over the Oregon Tech Owls in front of 3,054 fans at Lawlor Events Center. “But they were very calm.”
Freshman Marqueze Coleman scored a team-high 15 points and two steals in just 13 minutes, freshman Cole Huff had eight points, two blocks and two steals in 17 minutes and junior college transfer Ali Fall had 14 points and a steal in 21 minutes.
“They were not shy,” said junior Jerry Evans, who chipped in with 13 points in 20 minutes. “I remember when I was a freshman. My big thing was that I had to get over being nervous and shy. But they were not shy at all. They all played with a lot of confidence.”
Evans hit three 3-pointers to keep the Pack in the game early as Oregon Tech jumped out to a 20-15 lead six minutes into the game.
“We know we have to play a little harder at the start of game,” Carter said. “We can’t come out and get hit in the mouth, so to speak.”
Fall had a steal and a jumper to tie the game at 28-28 with 6:40 to go in the first half. The 6-foot-9, 250-pounder from Barstow Community College then cut Oregon Tech’s lead to 33-32 with a pair of layups. Coleman then drained a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to give the Pack a 40-33 lead with just under three minutes to go in the half.
“The new guys gave us a spark,” Evans said.
Carter first inserted his subs — Coleman, Fall, Huff, Patrick Nyeko and Jordan Burris — with the Pack trailing 18-13 with just over 14 minutes to play in the first half. The 6-8 Huff set the tone early, stealing the ball and driving home a dunk to cut the Owls’ lead to 20-17.
“All three young men showed that they have a lot of confidence,” said Carter of Fall, Huff and Coleman.
Coleman, who is expected to relieve starting point guard Deonte Burton this season, converted three of his four shots from the field and eight of his nine free throws.
“He really played relaxed and stayed within himself with all of the things he’s been doing in practice,” Carter said. “He can score, he can defend, he brings a lot of intangibles.”
Coleman, who played at Bishop Alemany High in Los Angeles last year, also hit his only 3-point attempt.
“I was actually a little nervous,” Coleman smiled. “It all started last night before the game. But I usually get nervous before every game and once I stepped on the floor it went away.”
Fall was 6-of-8 from the field and made both his free throws.
“It was a good experience for me,” said Fall, who is from Senegal. “I know what I can do and I just wanted to be ready when they called my name. I still have a lot of things I have to work on but I’m happy with what I did.”
The night, though, was filled with as many negatives and positives for the Pack.
Fall, for example, had just one rebound in his 21 minutes. Rebounding is a Wolf Pack concern this year with the loss of seniors Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz from the front court off last year’s team. Devonte Elliott, who has replaced Hunt in the starting lineup, had seven rebounds in 20 minutes and Kevin Panzer, who has replaced Czyz, had four boards in 23 minutes.
The Pack was outrebounded by the slower and smaller Owls, 41-40.
“Getting outrebounded, that’s unacceptable,” Carter said. “He (Fall) can score down low. He really has a presence down there. But he has to rebound a little bit more. He stood around defensively a little too much tonight.”
The Wolf Pack turned the ball over 17 times against the defending NAIA national champions. Oregon Tech, thanks to 21 offensive rebounds, was also able to get off 16 more shots (76-60) than the Pack.
“Game One was a learning experience,” Evans said. “Everyone is learning new roles and we had to adjust.”
“We have a lot more work to do but we’ll continue to get better,” Coleman said.
Oregon Tech’s Mihajlo Matic led all scorers with 19 points. The Owls’ Alex Zerbach had a game-high 11 rebounds.
“We got a lot of teaching lessons out of this game,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack will open the regular season on Saturday night at UC Irvine. “We can learn a lot from this.”
WOLF PACK NOTES: Carter said that junior guard Jordan Finn will sit out the season as a red shirt year. The 6-4 Finn played in 32 of the 35 games last year and averaged 1.4 points and half a rebound a game despite making 13-of-20 shots on the season.
“It was a combination of things,” Carter said. “We actually talked about it and decided to do it a couple weeks ago. There are just a lot of guys in his (junior) class and this is really the best thing for him and for our program. It gives us some flexibility in the future.”
Finn was expected to compete with Coleman and Keith Fuetsch for minutes at point guard behind Burton.