For a Nevada program that has struggled to find an identity since all-everything forward Nick Fazekas departed Reno in March of 2007, Friday night might have been their biggest win since the Fazekas era came to an end.
Since this was my first time attending a game at Lawlor Events Center since they played top-ranked North Carolina on New Year's Eve 2009, a lot has changed. Gone are coach Mark Fox, who fled to Georgia, and NBA draft picks Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson. In are longtime Nevada assistant David Carter and electric sophomores Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans, Jr.
Burton essentially took over the game Friday night with 19 of Nevada's last 24 points to erase a second-half ten-point deficit and provided Wolf Pack fans with the program's best win at least since they beat Wichita State in the first round of the NIT in 2010.
With a fairly miniscule crowd of 4,722, which is about 40% capacity, Lawlor was electric on Friday night, something usually only reserved for the likes of UNLV, Utah State and New Mexico State. It was great to see Reno excited about basketball again, because from 2004-2008 there were very few mid-major towns in the country that were tougher to play in as Lawlor Events Center was. Being there on Friday night really made you think Reno cared about basketball again. It was a fantastic environment.
I got two tickets from a good friend of mine, who sits very close to the visitors section, usually the players families and friends. The gentleman sitting next to me had his Huskies colors on, and we talked for a bit, he lives in the Bay Area and his nephew is smooth sophomore guard Terrence Ross. We got to talking about the college game in general and he told me his other nephew is former Duke standout DeMarcus Nelson, safe to say that guy's seen some quality basketball.
Much like our counterparts in Southern Nevada, Nevada sells alcohol (beer and mixed drinks) at their games, and that always leads to some interesting behavior from opposing fans who are not used to being able to consume their favorite libations while watching their favorite school in person. One Washington fan told me he was on his 8th beer, and it was halftime. He was the same guy I saw getting escorted out of the stadium with seven minutes left in the game. Shocking, I know.
One of my favorite things about college basketball is watching how the coaches act during the game, whether it be yelling at the officials or talking to their team, it's always intrigued me. Needless to say, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar did not disappoint. Apparently, Romar is a big fan of getting out his points by yelling, and I was shocked he had any sort of a voice left after the game.
Last but not least, as a Nevada fan, I was looking forward to seeing how Nevada's Burton would stack up against Huskies star guard Abdul Gaddy. While Gaddy was certainly his efficient self with ten points and six assists, Burton stole the show with 31 points, six rebounds and six assists. Burton was the best player on either team Friday night, much to the delight of Wolf Pack nation, as he's had a wildly inconsistent sophomore campaign after being the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2010-11 and being picked by the media as the preseason WAC Player of the Year this season.
All in all, it was a great night in Reno and the first RLU I've attended since I saw Temple upset Penn State in the now-second Round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed attending and writing about the game.
at NEVADA 76, WASHINGTON 73 12/02/2011
WASHINGTON 4-2 (0-0) -- A. Gaddy 3-7 2-2 10; C. Wilcox 6-13 0-0 14; A. N'Diaye 1-3 0-0 2; T. Ross 6-15 4-4 18; D. Gant 2-6 3-4 7; T. Wroten 4-8 6-8 14; D. Simmons 3-4 0-1 6; M. Breunig 1-2 0-0 2; S. Kemp Jr. 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 15-19 73. NEVADA 5-3 (0-0) -- D. Burton 9-18 9-14 31; D. Hunt 4-9 0-1 8; M. Story 5-16 1-2 13; J. Evans Jr. 2-5 2-3 6; O. Czyz 3-6 3-5 10; J. Burris 1-5 0-0 2; K. Panzer 1-2 0-0 2; D. Elliott 1-2 0-0 2; J. Finn 1-1 0-0 2; P. Nyeko 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-64 15-25 76.
Three-point goals: WASH 6-21 (D. Gant 0-3; A. Gaddy 2-4; C. Wilcox 2-6; T. Ross 2-7; T. Wroten 0-1), NEV 7-19 (O. Czyz 1-1; M. Story 2-7; J. Evans 0-2; J. Burris 0-3; D. Burton 4-6); Rebounds: WASH 38 (A. N'Diaye 12), NEV 27 (D. Hunt 7); Assists: WASH 19 (A. Gaddy 6), NEV 13 (D. Burton 6); Total Fouls -- WASH 22, NEV 19; Fouled Out: WASH-None; NEV-O. Czyz.