Dec. 2, 2008
Final Stats |
By John Manuszak
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Nevada Wolf Pack has been to the NCAA tournament in four of the last five seasons, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2004. On Tuesday night in Fort Collins, the Wolf Pack showed exactly why it has been so successful.
Nevada answered each of the Rams’ second-half runs and received contributions from several players on their way to an 82-76 in front of 2,556 fans at Moby Arena.
Colorado State battled hard and got within four points on four occasions in the second half, including with 25 seconds left in the game, but the Rams could never get any closer.
“Nevada is a highly talented team and very capable of answering runs,” said Head Coach Tim Miles. “I’m very proud of our kids. The effort and will they showed to get themselves back in the contest is not something easily done when you’re not having your best night. Nevada just did enough to hold us off. I wish the game would have been 2 more minutes.”
Playing without starters Willis Gardner (sore ankle) and Harvey Perry (Achilles’ strain), and with several Rams regulars struggling, CSU turned to a pair of unlikely reserves. Sophomores Travis Franklin and Josh Simmons kept the Rams in the ballgame in the second half as the duo combined to score 13 consecutive points for the Rams over a 6:19 span of the second half. Both players reached career highs with Simmons tallying 17 points on 7-11 shooting and seven rebounds while Franklin finished with 18 points on 6-8 shooting and grabbed a career-high six rebounds before fouling out at the 5:21 mark.
“We always want to win, so I don’t care who’s scoring as long as we win,” said Simmons. “But it’s a definite plus to be a factor in the game, but when it comes down to it we just want to win and unfortunately we didn’t tonight.”
The Rams used a 9-0 run to get within four points (78-74) with 1:11 left in the game, thanks to eight straight points from senior guard Marcus Walker. The Rams’ leading scorer, who struggled for most of the night, finally got it going late to give the Rams some hope in the closing minutes. But just as they had done all game, the Wolf Pack bent, but did not break. With 37 seconds left in the game, the Wolf Pack ran down the shot clock only to have Joey Shaw follow a missed shot with a lay-in to push the lead back to six (80-74). Andre McFarland hit two free throws to draw CSU within four points at 80-76, but Nevada got a dunk from Armon Johnson and CSU couldn’t score again.
The Wolf Pack was led by Johnson and Shaw, who both scored over 20 points. Johnson, the preseason WAC Player of the Year, led Nevada with a career-high 23 points on 10-17 shooting while Shaw tallied 21 points on 8-13 shooting, including three three-pointers.
For the Rams, Walker scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half while McFarland added 14 points, including 2-3 from three-point range. The sophomore, now shooting .594 (19-32), entered the game leading the Mountain West and ranking 12th in the country in three-point percentage.
It was a game of runs in the early going as the Rams jumped out to a 7-0 lead to open the game only to be matched by a 9-0 run by the Wolf Pack. Later in the first half, Nevada scored five straight points to build a 23-16 lead. But the Rams stayed close behind the inspired play of Franklin. In 8 minutes of action in the first half, Franklin tallied six points, which equaled his season total entering Tuesday’s game. On several possessions, he held the Wolf Pack to just one shot as he tied for a team high with five rebounds in the first period.
The Wolf Pack gained some separation when it held the Rams to just one field goal over a 7:03 span of the first half and used another 5-0 spurt to open up its biggest lead of the first half (38-25) with 2:12 remaining. CSU, in trouble of falling too far behind, answered with a 6-0 run of its own to finish the first half, but still trailed at halftime for just the second time this season.
The Rams will return to the road this weekend when they pay a visit to the Broncos of Boise State on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT.