Fenner shows way for Wolf Pack
RENO — The biggest crowd in Lawlor Events Center history got to watch senior D.J. Fenner have a career night in his last home rivalry game against UNLV.
Fenner, sporting a new Mohawk hairdo, went out and scored a career-best 37 points to lead Nevada to an easy 104-77 victory over the Running Rebels before 11,841 on Wednesday night.
Nevada’s 104 points were the most for the Pack in the series history against UNLV, and the 27-point margin of victory was their largest in the history of the series.
The win moved Nevada back into a first-place tie with Boise State. Both teams are 8-3 in conference play.
Fenner’s previous best was 30 against Air Force back on Jan. 18. He went 12-for-15 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. Fenner passed Ken “Tree” Green for 18th in Nevada history in career points. Fenner now has 1,218 career points at Nevada.
“Hopefully I’ll remember it forever,” said Fenner, who got his haircut before the shoot around. “It was a career night for me. I feel really humble about it. It’s a story to tell my kids (when I’m older).
“Yeah, I can feel (if I’m going to have a good shooting game). Before the game, I was making more shots. The rim got really big.”
The effort obviously impressed head coach Eric Musselman.
“D.J. was phenomenal,” Musselman said. “Seemed like he scored on everything he threw up. When you make five 3s, guys will sometimes chase extra shots, but I didn’t feel like he did that.
“Thirty-seven points off 15 shots. You don’t see many performances like that. He and Cam carried us offensively.”
It was Nevada’s second time over 100 this year (105-104 overtime win over New Mexico was the other). It comes on the heels of a dismal 57-point effort in a loss to Utah State.
Nevada shot 53 percent from the field, including 52.4 from beyond the arc. Nevada also out-rebounded UNLV 46-32 which led to 21 second-chance points. All those stats were key in the win.
“We shared the ball well; 23 assists on 38 baskets,” Musselman said. We shot 53 percent, and I think we missed seven layups. We have to do a better job of finishing at the rim.”
Nevada used three big scoring runs and a 50 percent mark from the field, 61.5 from beyond the arc, to open a 58-39 first-half lead against the defense-less Running Rebels. The 58 point half was a season-high. The previous high was 48 against Oregon State.
The Pack went on a 16-4 run early in the first half to take an 18-6 lead as Fenner got off to a quick start with five points.
Threes by Jovan Moring and Tyrell Green helped the Rebels cut the lead to 26-20 midway through the half, but Nevada came right back with a 10-2 run for a 37-22 lead with 8:03 left.
Oliver, who finished with 25 in just 26 minutes, started the surge with a free throw, Fenner added two more at the line and then dropped in a 3-pointer. Oliver threw down a dunk off a nice feed by Devearl Ramsey to make it 34-20. After Mooring scored again, Leland King II converted a three-point play to complete the surge.
In the final four-plus minutes, Nevada went on a 16-10 run, as Fenner dropped in a trey and converted a three-point play to lead the way. Jordan Caroline had a putback and free throw and Josh Hall knocked in a 3-pointer for the Pack’s largest lead of the half, 58-34, with 1:21 left.
UNLV got to within 14 a couple of times in the second half, but Nevada would always have enough firepower to pull away.
Musselman credited the preparation this week following the loss at Utah State.
“The week of practice set the tone defensively,” he said. “I thought we did a good job defensively in the first half.”
Musselman instituted a new rule this week if you gave up a basket in the first five minutes of the game you came out. He pulled both Oliver and Caroline early on.
UNLV barely shot 40 percent from the floor in the opening half and 43.5 for the game.
Nevada got its hands on a lot of balls, finishing with 11 steals. The Rebels turned it over 13 times, and Nevada made them pay with 23 points.
“I have great respect for UNLV,” Musselman said. “They are talented and well coached. We go there in a couple weeks. We have to put this game behind us and get onto San Diego State (on Sunday).”
BUFFER IN THE HOUSE
Legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer, thanks to some gracious donors, was on hand to announce the starting line-ups, and the crowd ate it up.
So did the players. Fenner and Oliver both mentioned his presence in their post-game comments.
It certainly was different, and Musselman said Nevada will continue to push the envelope in that regard.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nevada’s 19-5 start is the fourth-best record in school history after 23 games … The Wolf Pack’s RPI took a small hit after the loss at Utah State. Nevada was 41 as of Monday. Nevada is 5-2 against teams ranked in the top 100 and 13-5 against teams in the top 200.