The Nevada Wolf Pack played the role of the gracious host Sunday afternoon.
“I feel like we gave this one away,” Pack guard Jerry Evans said after a 63-58 loss to the Morehead State Eagles at Lawlor Events Center. “It was a very tough loss. This one hurt.”
“We gave it away big time,” Senior guard Deonte Burton said.
The Wolf Pack, which stunned Chattanooga 83-81 Friday night on a last-second 3-pointer by Burton, couldn’t come up with any miracles against the Eagles. The Pack trailed 60-57 with 37 seconds to go but then proceeded to miss three shots, one free throw and commit two fouls and one turnover the rest of the game.
“We turned the ball over entirely too much,” said Burton, referring to the Pack’s 16 turnovers. “We had silly bounce passes go off our legs and things like that. You can’t have unforced turnovers like that at key times in the game.”
But, still, the Pack had a chance to pull off another fantastic finish.
Wolf Pack coach David Carter called a timeout with 26 seconds to go with his team trailing 60-57 and designed a play for shooting guard Michael Perez.
“We thought they would double team Deonte so we set up the shot for Perez,” Carter said.
Burton had the ball at the top of the 3-point circle, waited for the double team and passed it to Perez on the left side with 16 seconds to go.
“We drew up a play for Mike coming off a screen,” Burton said.
“I wanted the first good-look three we could get,” Carter said.
Everything worked to perfection except that Perez missed the shot. Morehead State’s Kareem Story pulled down the rebound, was fouled by Evans and then drained two free throws for a 62-57 lead with 13 seconds to go.
“We just didn’t get enough production offensively,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack fell to 3-3 overall and just 1-2 at home. “We had just one guy with more than two field goals and that’s not enough.”
That guy, as usual, was Burton. The senior point guard scored a game-high 19 points, though it was the first time this season that he failed to score at least 20. The rest of the team combined to score just 39 points on 10-of-37 shooting.
“When you turn the ball over as much as we did, it gets you out of your rhythm offensively,” said Burton, who is now averaging 24.5 points a game.
Marqueze Coleman came off the Pack bench to commit eight turnovers in just 19 minutes. Coleman came into the game with eight turnovers in 109 minutes over the first five games of the season.
“The turnovers are correctable mistakes,” Carter said. “Marqueze had eight. That’s not going to happen again.”
Neither team found its offensive rhythm in the first half. The Pack led 27-25 at the break despite missing 6-of-7 3 pointers. Morehead State, though, struggled even more from the field. The Eagles missed 10-of-12 3-pointers and were just 8-of-25 (32 percent) from the field and 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) from the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes.
Carter credited his defense for the Eagles’ offensive struggles in the first half.
“I thought we defended real well,” Carter said. “Defensively, it was our best effort of the season so far.”
Morehead State changed its offensive focus in the second half. The Eagles stopped throwing up wild 3-pointers and concentrated on attacking the basket in the second 20 minutes.
Morehead State shot 48 percent (13-of-27) in the second half as 6-foot-2 guard Angelo Warner scored 15 points. Warner, who was 5-for-5 from the floor in the second half, had no points on 0-for-3 shooting in 17 minutes in the first half.
The Eagles also went inside to 6-foot-11 center Chad Posthumus and 6-foot-10 center Billy Reader. The two combined for 14 points in the second half after combining for just five in the first half. Posthumus, who leads the nation with 6.1 offensive rebounds a game, finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds (five on the offensive glass).
The Eagles, thanks to Posthumus, outrebounded the Pack 39-33 and also led in second-chance points (16-9) and points in the paint (24-16). Reader (nine points in 17 minutes) and 6-6 Drew Kelly (13 points) also contributed to the Eagles’ dominance inside.
“They played physical inside but that’s something we’ll see during the conference season and we have to get used to it,” said Evans, who finished with 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Morehead State, now 5-2 this season, wiped out the Wolf Pack’s 27-25 halftime lead quickly in the second half. A 3-pointer by Warner gave the Eagles a 28-27 lead 28 seconds into the second half and another 3-pointer by Warner gave the Eagles a 46-41 lead with 11:39 to go.
A short jumper by Posthumus gave the Eagles a 56-49 lead with four minutes.
Burton then tried to take over the game.
The 6-foot-1 guard hit a pair of free throws with 3:51 to go and hit a 3-pointer with 3:05 left to slice the Eagles’ lead to 56-54. Burton also drained another 3-pointer with 1:04 left to cut the deficit to 58-57.
Burton, unlike Friday night against Chattanooga, couldn’t do it all by himself. The point guard was the only Pack player to score over a crucial stretch of 5:20 late in the game, between a lay-up by Cole Huff with 5:26 to go and a free throw by Evans with six seconds left.
“We just could never get in sync offensively,” Burton said.
The game against Morehead State is part of the Las Vegas Invitational. The Pack will conclude the tournament with a pair of games at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas this week against UCLA on Thursday and Missouri on Friday.