So close. And yet so far away. The Mocs did not trail for the first thirty minutes of the contest, and then fought to stay in the game until the very end on late Friday night, only to see Deonte Burton drain a three at the buzzer to give Nevada the dramatic 83-81 win.
This one hurts, somehow even more than Kennesaw State on Tuesday night. The Mocs had chances to put the game away late in the contest but couldn't get the job done. Z Mason drained a three with twenty seconds left to give the Mocs the lead. Then the Mocs came up with a steal. After that, the Mocs could not inbound the ball, getting a five second call, giving the ball back to the Pack. After they traveled, the Mocs again struggled to get the ball inbounds. Mason was fouled on the catch, but missed both free throws. The Mocs tipped the ball out of bounds off the misses, running more clock, before Burton drained the three, banking it off the glass.
It's a shame for Mason because he was brilliant in this one. He looked like a future pro. He made long shots. He took the ball off the dribble to the basket. He made shots with his back to the basket. It was clearly his best game of the year. He stayed out of foul trouble. It was the sort of performance the Mocs needed from Mason on the road.
Gee McGhee was not his usual brilliant self. But he did score twelve points, including some longer jumpers.
But the most pleasant surprise was again Greg Pryor. He collected 19 points with four rebounds, five assists, and three steals. He became a difficult match-up for the Wolfpack. They struggled to have an answer for either Mason or Pryor in this one.
The Mocs made just 62.1% from the free throw line. Shooting 18 of 29 from the line will get you beat. Lance Stokes and Casey Jones combined to go 4 of 10 from the stripe. While that's disappointing, they can do better than that. They did shoot 50% from the floor and made 7 of 23 from three (which is seven threes, but is also 30.4% from long distance). The Mocs committed just eleven turnovers, and the Wolfpack turned it over 14 times. They also were outrebounded, but basically were even in that category. They just let Nevada shoot over 50%, and that is not good enough defense. The Mocs either need more turnovers or better defensive field goal percentage. It doesn't matter which, but one of those needs to happen for the Mocs to get as good as they can be.
The Mocs showed the same effort that they showed on Tuesday night against Kennesaw State, but they played more under control. They showed a lot of growth just since Tuesday night. They have gotten so much better just since the Radford game a week and a half ago. The game at UCLA on Sunday night appears to be a very difficult contest. But the Mocs are getting closer with each passing game. I don't know if they have the ability to beat the Bruins or not, but they have shown so much heart and energy that I do not count them out from that game.
It was disappointing to lose this game. Heartbreaking in fact. But the team can hopefully bounce back from this tough loss and continue playing. There is so much positive to take from this one. Hopefully, that can continue.
With four games coming in the next nine days, beginning at UCLA, continuing in Las Vegas against Morehead State and then either IUPUI or Gardner-Webb, and ending in Athens playing Georgia. This is a tough stretch, but after that it will be thirteen days before they play another D1 opponent. So there is plenty of time to get better. This is a great stretch for the Mocs to work in game situations and hopefully get a few wins. They can then use the days off to work on the things they see that need improvement prior to coming to Northern Kentucky.