RENO — Marqueze Coleman did his best Deonte Burton impression Saturday night.
Coleman scored 19 points in the final seven minutes as the Nevada Wolf Pack held off the Cal State San Marcos Cougars 72-62 in a season-opening exhibition game at Lawlor Events Center.
“I was just taking the open shots,” said Coleman, who has taken over the Wolf Pack’s starting point guard role from Burton, who held the job for the past four years. “They were just shots in rhythm. It was falling tonight.”
The 6-foot-4 junior scored 19 of the Wolf Pack’s final 22 points. The other three came from a 3-point play by A.J. West that gave the Pack a 70-62 lead with 43 seconds to play. Coleman at one point scored 17 Pack points in a row in a span of just more than four minutes and turned a 54-50 deficit into a 67-62 lead with 2:51 to play.
“We all got a lot of fuel off his energy,” said West, who chipped in with a double-double of 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Coleman admitted that late in the game he thought of the way Burton used to take over games down the stretch. “Yeah, a little,” Coleman said with a smile. “The point guard gets to handle the ball a lot. Tonight it was about scoring for me. Other nights it will be about kicking it out to my teammates. Whatever the game calls for, I’ll do.”
This game called for Coleman to channel his inner Deonte Burton.
Coleman drained three 3-pointers during his 19-point outburst. His first three cut San Marcos’ lead to 56-55 with 6:29 to go, his second tied the game at 60-60 with 5:08 left and his third gave the Pack a 67-62 lead with 2:51 left.
“He found his rhythm,” Wolf Pack coach David Carter said. “In the first half I didn’t think he was as aggressive as he should have been. In the second half he played with more of a purpose.”
San Marcos, a NAIA school, has now played one regular season game (a 73-67 win over Fresno Pacific on Nov. 1) and two exhibitions (It also lost at Cal on Thursday, 74-52). The Cougars actually led the game for roughly 30 of the 40 minutes. The Cougars led 36-29 at halftime and didn’t surrender the lead for good until three Coleman free throws gave the Pack a 64-62 lead with 3:36 to play.
Dayton Boddie, a 6-3 junior, led San Marcos with 18 points. Akachi Okugo, a 6-1 junior, had 14 and Blake Nash, a 6-foot senior, had 13.
“I really wasn’t worried about the score,” Carter said. “I was more concerned about our defense.”
San Marcos shot 45 percent (14-of-31) in the first half and just 35 percent (21-of-60) in the second half. The Cougars were 5-of-13 on 3-pointers in the first haf but missed 10 of their 11 3-point shots in the second half.
“They were shooting a higher percentage than I wanted to see,” Carter said. “In the second half I played the starters more and that helped our defense.”
West supplied a large share of that defense, blocking five shots in addition to his 15 boards. The junior played 28 minutes and also made 5-of-10 shots from the floor.
“We just all wanted to do anything that was necessary for us to get the win,” West said. “I just figured I had to step it up.”
Guard D.J. Fenner also stepped up his offensive production, scoring 13 points (11 in the first half) on 4-of-9 shooting. The 6-6 sophomore scored seven of the Pack’s first 12 points.
“It felt right,” said Fenner of his offensive focus. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. It didn’t feel uncomfortable by any means.”
Senior guard Michael Perez, the Pack’s most experienced returning player, was just 1-of-8 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. Perez, though, contributed a team-high five assists and also had five rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over in his 35 minutes.
“I wanted to get their feet wet,” Carter said. “This game was hard because we wanted to play a lot of guys and let them get used to the speed of the game.”
The Pack also got some production out of a few newcomers.
Tyron Criswell, a 6-3 junior, had five points and three boards in 18 minutes. Robyn Missa, a 6-9 freshman, didn’t score but he had five rebounds and a block in 15 minutes. Eric Cooper, a 6-3 freshman, was 0-for-5 from the field (he missed four 3-pointers) but did have three rebounds in 14 minutes. Kaileb Rodriguez, a 6-9 sophomore, started and had six points and four rebounds in 26 minutes.
“All the new guys are learning and getting better everyday,” West said.
The Wolf Pack will open the regular season next Saturday at Lawlor against Cal Poly.
“We have a week to prepare,” Coleman said. “It starts for real next Saturday. We’ll be ready.”