INDIANAPOLIS, March 17 -- As Nevada guard Mo Charlo walked to the foul line with 8.1 seconds to play in Thursday night's NCAA tournament first-round game against Texas, Wolf Pack guard Kyle Shiloh told him, "Don't miss them." Charlo smiled at his teammate and then didn't miss, sinking two free throws to lead the No. 9 seed Wolf Pack to a 61-57 upset of No. 8 seed Texas in a Chicago Region game at the RCA Dome.
Nevada, which until last year had never won a game in the NCAA tournament, upset a higher ranked team for the third time in the past two seasons. The Wolf Pack upset No. 7 seed Michigan State and No. 2 seed Gonzaga in last year's NCAA tournament, before losing to No. 3 seed Georgia Tech, 57-54, in the regional semifinals.
Nevada's Kevinn Pinkney dunks over Texas's Jason Klotz as the Wolf Pack advance to the 2nd round.
(John Sommers Ii -- Reuters)
The Wolf Pack's next challenge in Saturday's second round? No. 1 seed Illinois, which defeated No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday night.
"We win ugly," said Nevada Coach Mark Fox, whose team won for the 11th time in its past 12 games. "For those of you that haven't seen us before, this was a typical game for us. We're not pretty, and we're grinders."
Although Nevada (25-6) was probably as talented as the Longhorns (20-11), who lost leading scorer and rebounder P.J. Tucker on Jan. 20 because of academic problems, the victory was just as satisfying. The victory was Fox's first in the NCAA tournament after he replaced former coach Trent Johnson, who left for Stanford in June. And Nevada won despite the shooting woes of Nick Fazekas, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year. Fazekas, who averaged 21.4 points during the regular season, scored 10 and had 13 rebounds and missed 11 of 14 shots.
After leading by five points with about seven minutes left, Nevada fell behind 55-51 after Longhorns freshman Daniel Gibson made a three-pointer and Jason Klotz made a bank shot. Fox called timeout with 4 minutes 7 seconds to go and on the Wolf Pack's next possession, freshman point guard Ramon Sessions threw a pass to Fazekas in the lane. The ball bounced off his head and was stolen by Kenny Taylor.
With 3:33 remaining, Fox made the difficult decision of putting Fazekas on the bench and sending center Chad Bell, a 7-footer, to the court with 6-foot-10 forward Kevinn Pinkney. Fazekas, 6-10 and 245 pounds, also was having problems defending Klotz, who is shorter but wider and stronger.
"It's a tough decision to put the best player in the league on the bench," Fox said. "He's terrific and he'll be terrific again. He was good tonight, but I thought we needed a little bit better post defense. I thought if we were going to win, we had to shut them out."
The move paid immediate dividends, as Klotz missed a shot and Pinkney grabbed the rebound with about three minutes to go. Pinkney threw a pass to Sessions, who quickly dribbled up the court for an easy layup, making it 55-53 with 2:52 left. The Longhorns went back in front, 57-53, on Gibson's jumper, and then Sessions missed a layup and Pinkney dropped the rebound.
But Nevada got a break when Bell intercepted guard Kenton Paulino's pass to Brad Buckman on the blocks. On Nevada's next possession, the Wolf Pack missed two shots but Charlo grabbed the offensive rebound. He scored on a layup and was fouled, and his foul shot with 1:28 left cut Texas's lead to 57-56.
After Paulino missed a layup, Fox put Fazekas back into the game with 59.4 seconds to go. Charlo dribbled near the top of the lane and leaped to take a jumper, but then passed the ball to Pinkney in the lane. Pinkney scored on a short jumper and was fouled with 44.3 seconds left, giving the Wolf Pack a 58-57 lead. He missed the free throw and Klotz grabbed the rebound. Gibson didn't waste any time taking a shot, firing an ill-advised three-point attempt that was too long.
"Coach always says big players step up at big times," Gibson said. "I thought I had a good look and took a good shot."
Sessions made 1 of 2 foul shots to put the Wolf Pack ahead 59-57 with 21.5 seconds left, and then Klotz missed a short jumper with 10 seconds to go. The Longhorns fouled Charlo and he calmly sank the two foul shots with 8.1 seconds remaining.
Klotz led Texas with 20 points and six rebounds, and Buckman had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"They're really tough," Fazekas said. "They're bigger and stronger than me. I got out of rhythm early in the game and I think it messed with my head. It just wasn't a good night for me."
Fox said he wasn't surprised his team won despite its star player struggling.
"If calling a guy having a double-double a bad night, he must be a terrific player," Fox said. "We had other guys step up. We're not a one-man show."
ILLINOIS 67, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON 55: Dee Brown scored 19 points, and James Augustine had 11 points and 15 rebounds to lead the top-seed Illini past the No. 16 seed Knights.
Fairleigh Dickinson (20-13) stayed close in the first half and trailed 32-31 at halftime, but Illinois (33-1) pulled away in the second half. Luther Head added 13 points for Illinois.