Fazekas ran out of gas at the end
By Ferd Lewis
In the end, with no time left on the clock and hardly a breath left in him, Nick Fazekas' desperation 21-footer bounced tamely off the front of the rim.
Along with being the last-gasp hope of the University of Nevada in a 73-69 overtime loss to Hawai'i, the moment also underlined the success of the Rainbow Warriors' strategy.
Indeed, it was the exclamation point — and deep sigh of relief — on UH's employment of a basketball version of the rope-a-dope that left Fazekas, the Western Athletic Conference's player of the year, too pooped to pop.
To look at Fazekas' line in the final box score — 37 points and 15 rebounds — is to see that he had a beyond remarkable night. Not since 2001 had anybody scored 35 or more points against the 'Bows. Not since Chris Herren was at Fresno State in the mid-1990s had anybody so completely taken over a game against UH.
There is a reason, after all, Fazekas is projected as a first-round NBA draft pick this year as a junior.
But while Fazekas was nearly too much for UH last night, by himself he wasn't quite enough to give the two-time defending conference champion Wolf Pack a victory in their WAC season opener or keep the 'Bows from moving ahead of the pack to 2-0 (8-4 overall).
While he kept the 'Pack in the game, when the 39 minutes of playing time took their inevitable toll, nobody could pick up the considerable slack. Except for sharpshooting Marcelus Kemp, who scored 18 points, the 'Bows had so completely spread their defensive net with a school-record 13 blocked shots that Nevada had nobody to answer UH's finishing kick.
The 'Bows had served up this strategy last year but the combination of Kevinn Pinkney and UH's execution kept it from working. This time, Fazekas' sidekick, Pinkney, was gone and UH's execution had improved.
For the first 27 minutes, however, it looked like Fazekas might make UH eat its game plan. With 13 minutes, 5 seconds left in the second half, Fazekas had 32 points and Nevada had a 47-46 lead.
UH was in the process of alternating four defenders, Julian Sensley, Matt Gipson, Chris Botez and, finally, Ahmet Gueye. It was making him work and sweat for everything. It was still hanging on him like static cling and bumping and grinding to the limit the officials would allow. Sensley was still in Fazekas' ear and the 'Bows and their 6,331 faithful on hand still had their fingers crossed.
And Fazekas, who put up 35 points at Kansas last month, was still firing away and the Wolf Pack was still confidently feeding him.
From that point on, however, Fazekas made only one of his final 10 shots, including missing all three 3-point attempts. From that juncture Fazekas ceased to be the wonder weapon he had been.
"He missed a couple shots he doesn't normally miss so maybe that part of the strategy worked," UH coach Riley Wallace said.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8044.