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Omaha deals Wolf Pack another Lawlor loss

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David Carter doesn’t recognize his own Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team when it plays at Lawlor Events Center.

“It’s like two different teams,” the Pack coach said after an 82-80 home loss to the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks on Saturday in front of 5,052 disappointed fans at Lawlor.

“On the road we play with more passion. I don’t know if we’re putting more pressure on ourselves at home or what.”

The Wolf Pack, now 4-7 overall, is 1-3 at home this season and has lost six of its last seven home games dating back to last season. It is the program’s worst stretch at home since it lost eight of nine at home during the 1992-93 season.

“The hardest thing is getting that next win at home,” said Carter, whose Wolf Pack have now lost nine of their last 12 at home since last January. “Once we do that, we’ll be all right. But we can’t put more pressure on ourselves.”

The latest Pack home loss came on a layup by Omaha’s C.J. Carter with just under a second to play. The Wolf Pack had taken an 80-78 lead on a lay-up by guard Deonte Burton with 56 seconds to play. Omaha tied the game at 80-80 on a short jumper in the lane by John Karhoff with 40 seconds left. Carter’s game-winning lay-up came off a feed from Devin Patterson.

“Give him credit,” said Burton of Carter. “He made a tough lay-up.”

Burton, who finished with 22 points, missed a 3-pointer from the left corner with just under two minutes to play and then missed a 15-footer with nine seconds left.

“Looking back, maybe you want him to pass up that jump shot and drive to the basket,” Carter said. “But I don’t worry about that. We had the right guy at the right time taking those shots.”

The right guy for most of the night for the Wolf Pack was Jerry Evans. The senior led the Wolf Pack with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting but did not take a shot in the last 15 minutes. Evans scored 19 points in the first half but took just two shots in the second half. His final points of the night came on a 3-pointer to tie the score at 52-52 with 15:01 left.

“There’s no frustration at all,” Evans said. “My teammates got going and we were just playing within the system.”

Evans has now scored 67 points combined in the last three games. Evans’ lack of production down the stretch, Carter said, was the fault of the system to some degree.

“Part of that was my play-calling,” said Carter when asked why Evans didn’t see the ball much in the final 15 minutes. “In the first half he was getting good looks out of transition and (Omaha) took that away. We probably should have gone to him more.”

The Wolf Pack jumped out to a 22-16 lead after a dunk by Michael Perez a dozen minutes into the game. Evans then drove the baseline for a lay-up and a 26-21 lead with 6:32 left in the first half. The 6-foot-8 Evans scored 13 of the Pack’s first 28 points in the first 14 minutes of the game.

Evans also nailed a 3-pointer with 34 seconds to go in the first half to pull the Pack into a 41-41 tie at the intermission. It was the first game this season that the Pack found itself in a tie at halftime.

Omaha stayed in the game in the opening half by making six 3-pointers (on 14 attempts). Alex Phillips, who made all three of his 3-point attempts in the opening half (4-of-6 for the game), gave the Mavericks a 39-35 lead on a 3-pointer with two minutes to go in the half.

“They were just making shots,” Burton said. “If they were getting wide open looks, it would be different but we were contesting the shots.”

The Pack went on a 9-0 run, thanks a 3-pointer by Evans and a lay-up by Burton, to take a 54-52 lead early in the second half. The Wolf Pack used another 9-0 run to force a 74-74 tie with three minutes to go. Burton hit a 3-pointer to start the second 9-0 run with 5:54 left. Perez and Cole Huff also had a pair of free throws each during the second run.

Omaha, though, kept pounding the ball inside with Karhoff (25 points) and the Pack also couldn’t keep the Mavericks’ little guards (Devin Patterson, Marcus Tyus, Phillips and Carter) out of the paint when it mattered the most. The Mavericks are now 8-3 this season, their third as a reclassifying Division I school after making the jump from Division II.

“Give them credit,” Perez said. “They did what they wanted to do.”

The Wolf Pack has now allowed 80 or more points in five consecutive games for the first time since the 1986-87 season. The Pack has allowed 80 or more points in eight of 11 games. They allowed 80 or more points just five times all last season and just twice the year before (2011-12).

“Overall, our effort on defense was better,” Burton said. “We played hard. But we just have to demand more of each other and continue to get better.”

The Pack, which has now lost five of its last six games, played the game with just 10 players in uniform as guard Marqueze Coleman (eye injury) and forward Ronnie Stevens (shin injury) had to sit out.

“It’s frustrating to be short-handed but guys just have to step up,” said Perez, who scored 17 points.

“We didn’t have enough depth,” said Cater, who played just eight of his 10 available players. “We didn’t have enough depth inside. It’s hard when you look at the bench and you don’t have much, especially on the front line. But we have to keep going. The games aren’t going to stop.”

The Wolf Pack, which beat Omaha (81-69) on Jan. 17, 2012 at Lawlor, will meet Iona at Lawlor Events Center on Dec. 22 (1:05 p.m.). The current three-game home stand will conclude with a game against Long Beach State on Dec. 28 (7:05).

“We can’t hang our heads over this,” Burton said. “We have to go back in and regroup.”

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