Team Profile: 2007 BracketBuster Recap: Nevada 79, Northern Iowa 64
Nevada may not have needed the BracketBuster game against Northern Iowa in order to ensure and NCAA Tournament bid, but the Wolfpack surely removed any lingering doubt the NCAA Selection Committee may have had that they belong in the Big Dance. The Wolfpack took care of business with an emphatic second half performance, leading to a 79-64 victory over the visiting Panthers.The Wolfpack trailed at halftime, 32-31, but scored the first eight points and 22 of the first 26 points of the of the second stanza to pull away from a game Northern Iowa squad currently mired in sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The two halves of the game were similar in that the officials seemingly called fouls on every possession. There were 41 fouls called in total, and for the first half at least, the officials certainly had an impact on the game.
The game started with a raucous Reno crowd pumping energy into the arena, perhaps getting players on both sides too “amped up,” to start the game. The teams combined to miss their first six shots and with over 4 minutes gone in the half, the score was only 6-5.
Nevada’s junior point guard, Ramon Sessions, who would be the catalyst for the Wolfpack’s second half run, picked up his second foul with over 8 minutes remaining in the first half and sat out the remainder of the half. Nevada’s offense, which had looked great during a 13-4 run mid-way through the first half, then became stagnant. With Nevada struggling to score Northern Iowa took advantage and went on a 9-2 run of their own and the game then see-sawed back and forth. Northern Iowa sank two free throws with one second left in the half to go into the locker room with the one point lead.
The second half was a scoring frenzy for the Wolfpack. Senior guard Kyle Shiloh, who had shot poorly in the first period, hit three of Nevada’s four three point shots to open the half as the Wolfpack scored on eight of their first nine possessions. By the time Northern Iowa’s Grant Stout made two free throws to stop the Wolfpack run 6:30 into the half, the game was effectively over.
Several players on both teams had fine games. Along with Shiloh and Sessions, Nevada senior All-American postman Nick Fazekas had 17 points and 5 rebounds, even though he spent a large chunk of the second half on the bench with three fouls. Junior wing Marcellus Kemp led the Wolfpack with 18 points and 6 boards. For Northern Iowa, freshman center Jordan Eglseder scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds as he tried to hold the line in the paint for the Panthers when Coleman and Stout were sitting in foul trouble.
Barring a monumental collapse to end the season, Nevada was assured of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tourney before the game began, and that assessment does not change with the game’s result. But the Pack provided ample visual evidence that they should be seriously discussed for a regional top 3 seed in the coming weeks.
Even with a victory, Northern Iowa would have had to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to make the NCAAs. The loss doesn’t hurt the Panthers in that sense, although they now have only a few weeks to try and find some outside shooting, a lack of which has plagued them for the better part of a month and was no different tonight.