The Nevada Wolf Pack learned once again Saturday afternoon that it simply cannot live by Deonte Burton alone.
Burton scored 23 points but didn’t get much help from his teammates as the Wolf Pack fell to the Wyoming Cowboys, 59-48, in front of a disappointed crowd of 6,282 at Lawlor Events Center.
“We’ve got to get him some help,” Wolf Pack coach David Carter said of Burton, his junior point guard. “Other guys need to step up.”
The Wolf Pack has now lost three games in a row for the first time since January 2011 to fall to 9-7 overall and 0-2 in the Mountain West. The last time the Pack started 0-2 in conference play was the 2002-03 season in the Western Athletic Conference.
“We’re getting frustrated,” Burton said. “You don’t like to lose two league games like this. Frustration is starting to set in.”
It was a case of Burton or bust for the Pack against the Cowboys (14-1, 1-1), which now leads the all-time series against the Pack, 8-1.
“Guys have to get their confidence back,” Burton said.
Burton finished without an assist for the second time in the last three games. The point guard has just two assists during the three-game losing streak mainly because hardly anyone else is making shots.
Burton’s teammates shot just 10-of-49 combined against Wyoming for 25 points. The other four starters (Kevin Panzer, Jerry Evans, Jordan Burris and Malik Story) were a combined 7-of-41 for 18 points. The Pack was 1-of-15 on 3-pointers (Burton was 1-of-2) as Burris and Story were 0-for-11 combined.
“We’re shooting threes just for the sake of shooting them,” Carter said. “Guys aren’t shooting with any confidence.”
Panzer was 0-for-7 from the floor and didn’t score a point in 22 minutes. Story was 2-of-14 from the floor and is now in a serious shooting slump. He is 7-of-37 and has scored just 19 points during the three-game losing streak and is 3-of-21 on 3-pointers.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” said Carter of Story. “I’ve been asking that same question. He’s had two terrible league games and I thought he’d bounce back (against Wyoming) but he didn’t. He has to do some searching. He just doesn’t look like he has the same confidence. I don’t know what it is.”
Story wasn’t the only one in silver and blue missing shots. Burton said the Wolf Pack wasted numerous easy scoring chances in the paint.
“We’re just not finishing, especially down low,” he said. “Guys are getting point blank lay-ups and they are either rushing it or they are nervous. We have to get those shots to go down.”
The loss to the Cowboys followed much the same script as the 78-65 loss at Air Force on Wednesday night that opened the Pack’s Mountain West season. The Wolf Pack built a 33-30 lead on Air Force by halftime and then allowed the Falcons to shoot the lights out in the second half.
The same thing happened against Wyoming. The Wolf Pack took a 20-17 lead at the half on Saturday only to watch Wyoming score 42 points in the second half.
“Those teams (Air Force and Wyoming) were a different team in the second half but we also were a different team in the second half in both games,” Burton said.
The Wolf Pack was simply manhandled in the second half by Wyoming’s physical 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward Leonard Washington. The Cowboys’ senior dominated the paint in the second half, scoring 14 of his team-high 16 points in the final 20 minutes. Washington, among the Top Ten in both scoring (14.9) and rebounding (8.5) in the conference, also finished with 13 boards.
“This league is a men’s league,” Carter said. “You have to be a man inside. Washington was a man amongst boys.”
Carter said his big men, namely Panzer and Devonte Elliott, were taught a valuable lesson by Washington.
“I think so,” Carter said. “You can’t let him get the ball. And you have to use your quickness against his strength and we didn’t do that.”
Washington scored on three quick lay-ups early in the second half to tie the game at 26-26. He drained a hook shot in the lane for a 36-30 lead and put back his own miss for a 38-30 lead with just over eight minutes to play. His dunk gave the Cowboys a 45-32 lead with 5:40 to go and started some Pack fans on their way home.
“Washington did a great job of controlling the game,” Carter said. “In the second half they slowed the game down and started feeding him the ball.”
The Wolf Pack took its final lead of the game at 28-26 on a jumper by Burton with 13:37 to play. Wyoming then went on a 21-4 run over the next 8:36 to take a commanding 47-32 lead with 5:01 to play.
“We’re just not finishing shots,” Carter said. “And when that happens you get frustrated and then it affects your defense. As a coach I’m trying not to go to Deonte (Burton) too much but guys down on the block are not finishing. I have to try to find ways for us to score.”
The Wolf Pack is back in action this Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Fresno State.
“We have a week before we have to get back out there,” Carter said. “We have to get this thing corrected.”