Nevada Gets First NCAA Tournament Win

Nevada Wolf Pack
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Time erased Nevada's jitters.

The Wolf Pack trailed by as many as 16 early, then rallied late to upset Michigan State 72-66 Thursday night for Nevada's first victory in NCAA tournament play.

``That's all it was -- just a matter of time before we got comfortable with the guys we were playing against,'' said Kirk Snyder, who hit a 3-pointer with 2:52 left to push 10th-seeded Nevada ahead of the Spartans.

Snyder, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year, finished with 19 points to help Nevada earned its first victory over a Big Ten opponent in nine tries.

Nevada (24-8) will face second-seeded Gonzaga in the second round Saturday. Gonzaga beat Valparaiso 76-49.

Snyder hit a jumper with 3:32 left to narrow it to 63-62. Then he made his coolly executed 3-pointer that gave Nevada the lead. The Wolf Pack were 7-of-8 from the line in the last 1:07 to seal it.

Snyder, who didn't show much emotion as he rallied his team, finally let slip a slight grin with about a minute left, when he nodded knowingly to the fans.

``Coach told us the crowd would be behind us if we played hard,'' he said. ``It's the American way -- underdogs win.''

Other than Maurice Ager's 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play, Michigan State went scoreless for nearly the last seven minutes. Alan Anderson made two free throws with 6:53 left to put the Spartans ahead 63-56.

The Wolf Pack, in the tournament for the first time since 1985, earned the trip to Key Arena by beating Texas-El Paso in the WAC championship game.

Okeson added 14 points for Nevada, and Kevinn Pinkney had 13.

The seventh-seeded Spartans (18-12) played a difficult schedule, going 0-9 against ranked teams. But they finished strong, winning 13 of 16 before losing to Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.

Coach Tom Izzo said while the Spartans' season made them tougher, it obviously wasn't enough.

``In life, you get what you deserve,'' he said. ``They deserved to win and we didn't.''

The Spartans also were the seventh seed last season when they advanced to the regional final before losing to top-seeded Texas.

Michigan State was making its school-record seventh straight appearance in the tournament. Paul Davis led the Spartans with 16 points and six rebounds, but his team was hurt when he fouled out.

``I told coach I wanted to go inside more, and that's where I got my last foul. I guess I messed it up,'' Davis said. ``That's not the way I wanted to end it.''

Nevada narrowed the margin to seven at 47-40 in the second half on Garry Hill-Thomas' jumper, but Michigan State's Anderson came right back with a 3-pointer.

The Wolf Pack got it down again to 59-54 on Nick Fazekas' 8-foot hook, but Tim Bograkos came back with a long jumper for the Spartans, who held off Nevada until the Wolf Pack's 16-3 run to close the game.

Nevada briefly took a 13-12 first-half lead on Snyder's free throw, but Michigan State went on a 15-0 run that made it 27-13 midway through the first half.

Marcelus Kemp and Pinkney hit consecutive 3-pointers to end Nevada's scoring drought, and it appeared finished for the less experienced WAC team.

The pressure briefly got to Nevada coach Trent Johnson, making his debut as a head coach in the tournament. He was assessed with a technical for angrily arguing a call.

Snyder began to hit a stride, however, and his 3-pointer closed it to 39-29 for the Wolf Pack. After Jason Andreas hit a lay-in for the Spartans, Nevada hit 3-of-4 free throws and Snyder swished a jumper to make it 41-34. It was as close as they could get and Michigan State led 43-34 at the half.

When there was confusion at the end of the half over time remaining on the clock and it was mistakenly reset to show 8 seconds left for a Nevada inbound, Snyder joked to the officials, ``We'll take the 8!''

The clock was then reset to show 1.8 seconds left, but Nevada was unable to get anything done.