Basketball: Wolf Pack wins exhibition over Chico State |

Basketball: Wolf Pack wins exhibition over Chico State

by Joe Santoro

What was the best thing about the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 90-63 exhibition victory over the Chico State Wildcats Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center?

It’s over.

“It was good to get this one out of the way,” sophomore Luke Babbitt said after his 14-point effort in 25 minutes. “Now it’s for real. Now every game matters.”

The Wolf Pack, which will officially open the season Saturday night (7:05 p.m.) against Montana State at Lawlor, saw all 11 players score at least two points in front of a season-opening crowd of 3,687.

“We had a lot of energy in the first half,” said junior guard Armon Johnson, who scored 12 of his game-high 16 points in the first 20 minutes. “That was good to see.”

That energy, though, disappeared after the Pack built an easy 54-27 halftime lead. Chico State took advantage of a lethargic Nevada team, outscoring the Pack 17-5 in the first five minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to 59-44.

“We did come out a little sluggish,” said Johnson, who had four turnovers to go along with just one assist. “That’s something we have to work on.”

The Pack point guards – Johnson and London Giles – combined for 10 turnovers and just four assists in 35 minutes. Giles had six turnovers and three assists in 14 minutes.

Pack coach David Carter, though, wasn’t overly concerned with his offense, especially after a 90-point effort.

“We really didn’t run our offense tonight,” Carter said. “That was just our running offense. I wasn’t worried about the offensive end.”

Carter was more concerned with the other end of the floor.

“I wanted to see our defense play with intensity, especially in the first half,” said Carter, making his debut as Pack head coach. “I saw that for the most part to start the game.”

The defense was led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Dario Hunt’s game-high 16 rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes. Hunt, who also added 11 points, had six offensive rebounds.

“We expect that out of Dario,” Carter said. “He has to be our leading rebounder. He’s 6-8 and he’s our most athletic player. I expect him to be close to a double-double every single night.”

“Dario was a beast tonight,” said Babbitt, who also had six rebounds, three assists and a block. “But that’s what he has been doing all off-season.”

The Wolf Pack hit 6-of-19 3-pointers for the game. Senior Ray Kraemer was 3-for-7 from beyond the arc.

“That’s what I do,” Kraemer said. “Coach wants me to come out and shoot the ball and I do it well.”

Kraemer hit a 3-pointer for an 18-7 Pack lead six minutes into the game. The 6-4 guard also hit from long distance in the final seconds of the first half for a 54-25 lead and with 12:25 to go for a 68-44 lead.

Freshman Keith Fuetsch, a Bishop Manogue graduate, also had a 3-pointer with 4:45 to go in the first half, giving the Pack a 43-17 lead.

Kraemer’s final 3-pointer was part of a 12-0 Wolf Pack run midway through the second half. The Pack run, which also included a steal and dunk by Babbitt and four free throws by Brandon Fields, gave the Pack a 71-44 lead with 10:47 to play.

“This game doesn’t mean much in the scheme of things, it doesn’t count on our record,” Babbitt said. “In a game like this you just want to get out there and get the rust off and play well. We did that so it was a good night.”

All five Pack starters – Fields, Babbitt, Johnson, Hunt and Joey Shaw – each played from between 21-26 minutes. The six players on the bench – Giles, Fuetsch, Kraemer, Adam Carp, Marko Cukic and Patrick Nyeko – combined for 34 points, five assists and six steals and shot 11-for-19 (58 percent).

“That was probably the only time I’ll be able to do that,” said Carter, of the chance to give his bench meaningful minutes. “I wanted to take advantage of it.”