Archive for Monday, December 22, 2003

Kansan appreciates huge Wolf Pack win

December 22, 2003


— Normally at midnight on a Sunday night, the sidewalk out in Weskan, a small Kansas town near the Colorado border, has been rolled up.

Not this Sunday. They may have been dancing, even, in the street in Weskan after native son Todd Okeson helped Nevada shock No. 6-ranked Kansas, 75-61, at the Wolf Pack Classic.

"I'm sure the whole county was watching," said Okeson, a 6-foot senior guard. "Most people out there are KU fans, but I think we made some fans tonight."

Okeson sparkled for tiny Weskan High just down the road from Sharon Springs, the Wallace County seat, then spent two seasons at Dodge City Community College before transferring to the Reno school.

Okeson scored a dozen points, half of them at the free-throw line, as the Wolf Pack withstood a late Jayhawk charge by making 17 of their last 18 free throws.

"I've still got goose bumps," Okeson said about 10 minutes after many in the crowd of 10,983 -- the sixth largest in Lawlor Events Center history -- stormed the floor. "It's wonderful. I don't know if there's any better Christmas present, except for maybe beating them there."

Okeson played a supporting role in the Wolf Pack's first victory over a ranked team since they toppled in-state rival UNLV in the late '80s, but teammate Kirk Snyder definitely was the lead character.

Snyder, a 6-6 junior from Upland, Calif., was averaging 14.9 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, but he exploded for team-highs of 29 points and nine boards.

"He played tonight," Nevada coach Trent Johnson said. "When he's right mentally, he's as good as they get."

Snyder gave most of the credit to his teammates and to the noisy throng.

"It's just a blessing what happened tonight," Snyder said. "When we get a crowd like that, we'll compete hard. You see 10,000 fans, and the game is easy. Fatigue is not a factor."

Kevinn Pinkney, who added 10 points and seven rebounds, marveled at Snyder, who logged all but one minute on the floor.

"He was trying to impress somebody," Pinkney said. "That's the best I've seen him play since I've known him."

Reportedly, as many as 20 NBA scouts were on hand, but Snyder stressed he wasn't trying to show his wares to them.

"No, my focus was on the team," he said.

Johnson, now in his fifth season as the Wolf Pack coach, had seen his players lose at Pacific and at Portland U., but those weren't the same players he saw Sunday night.

"It's hard for me to imagine us playing any better because we hadn't been playing well," Johnson said. "That's a credit to the team because they came out and responded to the crowd. We really got after them. We defended about as well as we could."

Even though Snyder dominated, eight different Nevada players scored, and eight had at least one rebound.

"It wasn't a one-man performance," Johnson stated. "Everybody played well."

Whether the Wolf Pack will play that well in their next game against UC-Davis wasn't one of Johnson's concerns late Sunday night.

"I'm going to go home and get in my recliner and watch ESPN," he said. "I even got a hug from my wife, so things must be going good."

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