Pack romps past New Mexico State
David Carter has been around Nevada Wolf Pack basketball long enough to know that a two-game winning streak is no reason to hold a parade down Virginia Street.
“You can’t excited after just one win,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack dominated the New Mexico State Aggies, 90-71, Thursday night at Lawlor Events Center to earn its first two-game winning streak of the season.
“It’s like I told the guys, ‘You haven’t done anything. You haven’t accomplished anything. If you lose the next game, this doesn’t mean anything.'”
This mini winning streak, though, was something the Pack has been looking for all season.
“It feels good to string some wins together,” said center Dario Hunt, who scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. “This was a big step for us. It was big to continue what we did the last game.”
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The Pack, which won at Boise State on Jan. 15 to start this two-game streak, shot 57 percent (35 of 62) and outrebounded the bigger Aggies, 42-29.
“We knew they were real big and very physical,” Hunt said. “But we’re also a very athletic team. Size doesn’t matter. All that matters is who goes up and gets it.”
The Wolf Pack, now 6-13 overall and 3-3 in the Western Athletic Conference, led for the final 28:27.
“We played a complete 40 minutes for the first time this season,” Hunt said. “That was good to see.”
The crowd of 4,839 saw a lot of Pack-positive things.
The Pack shot a blistering 66 percent (27 of 41) inside the three-point line, dominated the boards and dished out a season-high 21 assists on their 35 field goals. The 90 points is a season high as is the 19-point margin of victory.
“This win builds confidence,” Carter said. “It’s a sign that this team is growing up.”
The Pack put the game away with an 11-4 run over a two-minute stretch midway through the second half.
Burton, who had a game-high 22 points, started the run with a three-pointer for a 63-53 lead with 10:06 to play. Burton, who had six assists, then fed Malik Story for a lay-up and a 65-53 lead with 9:46 left and also found Olek Czyz for another lay-up and a 67-55 lead with 9:16 left.
Hunt then pulled down a rebound off a missed layup by Derrell Conner and scored inside for a 69-57 lead. The run was then capped off by an alley-oop lob by Story to Czyz for a dunk and a 71-57 lead with 8:17 to go.
The Pack would lead by double digits the rest of the way.
“That was the big momentum swing,” Czyz said. “That was when we pulled away.”
The Pack almost literally ran the Aggies out of the gym.
“During a timeout I told the guys, ‘They look winded. When you get the rebound you have to push it.’ I just thought they (New Mexico State) were getting a little tired.”
“They all looked pretty winded,” Burton said. “So we were able to get out and run and get some easy baskets.”
The Pack went on another 8-0 run to take the fight out of the Aggies. Czyz had a dunk and Conner then found Jerry Evans, Czyz and Burton for three layups and a 79-60 lead with six minutes to play.
“We just kept attacking the rim, attacking their press,” Czyz said.
The Aggies, now 10-10 overall and 4-2 in the WAC, could never stop the bleeding.
“We knew they were going to throw a lot of different defenses against us and a lot of different presses,” Czyz said. “We handled it well. We handled it in a very mature way.”
Carter used a pair of point guards (Conner and Burton) on the floor at the same time at times to help combat the Aggies’ press.
“When they went to the press I went to the two guards,” Carter said. “And Derrell handled it real well.”
Conner had 10 points and five assists in 14 minutes off the bench.
“He did real well against their press,” Carter said. “That was nice to see because he didn’t play well on the road (at Idaho and Boise State last week). This was huge for his confidence.”
The 21 assists pleased Carter the most of all the glowing numbers on the stat sheet.
“That shows we shared the ball well,” Carter said. “We finished around the basket well.”
“We were just patient ,” Burton said. “We got what we wanted on offense instead of that they wanted (on defense).”
The Wolf Pack will host Louisiana Tech Saturday night at 7:35 at Lawlor. A victory will give the Pack its first three-game winning streak since last March.
“We all know what we’re capable of,” Hunt said. “It’s just a matter of us executing our game plan for a full 40 minutes. Now we’re starting to see that.”
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