The Nevada Wolf Pack is learning that not every victory is a reason to throw a party.
"A win is a win," point guard Deonte Burton said after the Wolf Pack's methodical 60-47 victory over the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Sunday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center. "It feels good but we also feel we could have done some things a lot better."
The Pack, now winners of two in a row after two season-opening losses, were in control of the Panthers from the opening tip. The Wolf Pack scored the game's first 11 points and led by at least eight points over the final 36:21.
But it wasn't a work of Wolf Pack art. The Pack committed 17 turnovers and shot just 38% (18-of-48) from the field and just 60% (21-of-35) from the free throw line against the Southwestern Athletic Conference Panthers.
"It was a win but it was a learning lesson also," said senior forward Olek Czyz.
The Pack has won its last two games (they beat Pacific 78-54 last Thursday) despite committing 42 turnovers combined and making just 55% of their free throws (31-of-56).
"Turnovers always concern you," Pack coach David Carter said. "When we are winning by double digits, sometimes they don't understand the importance of every possession. We just got complacent a little bit and got a little sloppy at times."
The Pack has turned the ball over 66 times this season in four games (16.5 a game). Center Dario Hunt has exactly one-third (22) of the Pack's turnovers.
"Dario is averaging five or six a game (six on Sunday) and that's too much," Carter added. "Take away his turnovers and we are committing just 11 or 12 a game and that's where you want to be."
The Pack, playing in front of a small crowd of 2,451, was where it wanted to be for most of the afternoon against the Panthers.
"We came out with great energy to start the game," said Burton, who had nine points, three steals and two assists. "We got an early lead which is big for us so we don't have to play catch-up."
Prairie View (2-2) was led by Louis Munks' game-high 16 points. The Panthers cut the Wolf Pack's lead to 31-23 with a jumper by Jourdan Demuynck just 30 seconds into the second half but never got closer than 10 the rest of the game.
The Pack went on a 9-2 run to all but put the Panthers away. Malik Story drained a 3-pointer to start the run, Czyz hit two free throws and Jerry Evans completed a 3-point play for a 40-25 lead with 13:46 to go.
Evans, who averaged 6.3 points a game over the first three games, scored a team-high 11 to go along with a game-high seven rebounds. The 6-foot-8 sophomore, who scored a career-high 15 points last Feb. 14 at Hawaii, scored seven of his 11 points in a span of 3:32 in the second half as the Pack expanded its lead from 37-25 to 48-28.
"Jerry has a lot of intangibles," said Carter, who played all five of his starters between 23 and 26 minutes. "He can rebound, play defense and score. When he plays with a lot of energy everybody feeds off that."
The Wolf Pack stayed comfortably ahead of the Panthers most of the afternoon because of its defense. The Pack had a season-high nine steals (they had eight against Pacific) and forced Prairie View A&M into 17 turnovers (a high for a Pack opponent this year).
"We just have more communication on defense this year," said Evans, who is one of the Pack's better defenders. "We're talking to one another more on the floor."
"We just understand the concept of defense better," said Czyz, who had five rebounds and a steal to go along with his 10 points. "We're contesting more shots, staying with our assignment. That wasn't happening last year."
"They are understanding more and more that defense is a team game," Carter said.
The Pack led by as much as 24 (56-32 with 5:23 to play) and then coasted home. Carter said he would like to see his Pack develop more of a killer instinct.
"That would be huge," said Carter. "We have a tendency that when we get a comfortable lead we sort of play even with the other team. That's our next step, to keep playing hard on every possession no matter what the score is."
Sunday's game was the first of four for the Pack in the Chicago Invitational. The second game will be Tuesday night (7:05 p.m.) against Longwood at Lawlor Events Center followed by two games in Chicago against BYU on Nov. 25 and either Bradley or Wisconsin on Nov. 26.