Pack can’t hold lead in OT loss to Utah State
The Nevada Wolf Pack stood around and watched the Utah State Aggies steal a basketball game Wednesday night.
“The kids won’t admit it but we ran out of gas,” Wolf Pack coach David Carter said after a 79-72 overtime loss to the Aggies in front of a stunned crowd of 7,035 at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack, which wasted a 10-point lead with seven minutes to go in regulation, played down the stretch and in overtime as if they were as stunned as the crowd.
“We stood around too much and settled for jumpshots instead of working the ball inside,” Carter said. “That’s a sign of fatigue.”
The Pack players, though, refused to chalk up the loss to simply being tired.
“We just gave the game away at the end,” said Luke Babbitt, who scored a game-high 26 points with 12 rebounds.
“We just weren’t as tough as they were,” said Ray Kraemer, who came off the bench to score 14 points. “They got the rebounds when they needed them and we didn’t. They got the big stops when they needed them and we didn’t.”
“We just got outplayed and out-executed,” Brandon Field said.
The Wolf Pack made just two of its final 10 shots in regulation while Utah State made 5-of-5 during one five-minute stretch that saw them take a 69-67 lead with 1:30 to go in regulation. The Pack needed a layup by Armon Johnson with 35 seconds to play to send the game into overtime.
Utah State, which beat the Wolf Pack in the Western Athletic Conference tournament title game at Lawlor last March, dominated the final 1:15 of overtime to steal the victory.
Jared Quayle drained a 3-pointer with 1:15 to go, Nate Bendall hit two free throws with 55 seconds to go and Pooh Williams capped off the victory with a dunk with 32 seconds to play.
The Wolf Pack, which never led in overtime, failed to score over the final 1:27 to fall to 10-7 overall and 2-2 in the WAC. The loss was also the Pack’s first at home this season in nine games.
“We just didn’t hit shots,” said Babbitt. “There’s really not much more to say.”
Babbitt missed five shots in the final five minutes of regulation. Fields missed a pair of shots and Joey Shaw missed a 3-pointer from the corner.
“It might look like we were standing around but we just called Luke’s number in isolation and he just didn’t hit those shots,” Carter said. “He’s come through a lot for us in those situations.”
Babbitt was the main reason why the Pack enjoyed a double-digit lead.
The 6-foot-9 sophomore hit his first six shots of the second half as the Pack took its 65-55 lead with seven minutes to go. Babbitt, who was just 3-of-10 in the first half for nine points, dominated the Aggies over the first 13 minutes of the second half, scoring 15 points.
His 3-pointer from the top of the arc from about 25-feet out electrified the crowd and gave the Pack a 58-52 lead with 10:18 to go. His left-handed runner in the lane gave the Pack its 65-55 lead.
Utah State, which improved to 12-6 and 2-2, outscored the Pack over the final 12 minutes of the game, 24-7, as the Pack made just two of its final 18 shots (0-of-8 in overtime) to finish at 41.5 % for the game.
“I thought we had good looks,” said Carter, who played four players (Babbitt, Johnson, Fields and Hunt) 39 or more minutes in the game.”
The Pack was equally off target at the free throw line, missing half of its 18 free throws for the game. They were 6-of-14 from the line in regulation, though they did not get a free throw attempt over the final 7:56.
“There’s no excuses for that,” said Fields, who was 0-for-3 from the line. “We just have to get in the gym and work on it.”
The Wolf Pack’s home court mystique is now over. The Pack will host Idaho on Saturday at Lawlor.
“It’s all mental now,” Carter said. “We have to pick it back up in another three days. We have to start a new streak at home and then go out on the road and steal one we’re not supposed to get.”