10:30 PM ET, December 21, 2003
Lawlor Events Center, Reno, Nevada
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Kirk Snyder was supposed to be the added attraction for the 20 NBA scouts who turned out primarily to watch the Kansas trio of Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien take on the Nevada Wolf Pack.But Snyder, the preseason pick to be the Western Athletic Conference's player of the year, ended up stealing the show Sunday night, scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds to lead Nevada to an upset of the Jayhawks (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) 75-61 in the Wolf Pack Holiday Classic."It's just a blessing that this happened," said Snyder, who made 9-of-18 from the field, scoring both inside and outside and sparking a 12-2 run to open the game. "It was a team effort. We came out and we know our roles."Todd Okeson, a senior guard from Weskan, Kan., had 12 points for Nevada and the Wolf Pack made 19 of 21 free throws over the final 10 minutes to hold off the Jayhawks."I still have goose bumps. It hasn't really set in that we just beat Kansas," Okeson said. "I'm sure the whole county was watching, not just Weskan."Kevinn Pinkney added 10 for the Wolf Pack (5-3), who were mobbed by more than 100 students who charged the floor at the buzzer before the sixth largest crowd in school history, 10,983 at the Lawlor Events Center."When you look up and see 10,000 fans, it makes the game so easy. Fatigue is not a factor," said Snyder, a 6-foot-6 junior who entered the game averaging 15 points per game and insisted the contingent of pro scouts didn't affect him."My focus was on the team and the guys and all the hard work we've put forth day in and day out at practice," Snyder said.Pinkney said Snyder's play inspired the whole team."He was trying to impress someone. He played a hell of a game," Pinkney said.Langford and Miles each had 11 points for Kansas (6-2), which went on a 20-8 run late the game to pull within 68-61 with 1:47 left but couldn't overcome a 20-point halftime deficit.Langford said Snyder is "probably one of the best players I've ever played against.""Early, letting him get a couple of easy baskets really got his confidence going. I think he was determined to have a big game after that," Langford said.Nevada dominated the first half, outrebounding the Jayhawks 23-13 while holding them to 26 percent shooting. The Wolf Pack made 24 of 29 free throws for the game."It's pretty hard for me personally to imagine us under the circumstances playing better," Nevada Coach Trent Johnson said."I thought we put on a pretty good performance in front of some pretty good enthusiastic and deserving fans," he said."In the first half, we really got after them. We were aggressive defensively and played about as well as we can. In the second half when they made their run, our guys stood their ground and kept their composure."Nevada never trailed, jumping out to a 12-2 lead five minutes into the game and extending the advantage to 40-17 when freshman center Nick Fazekas made a pair of free throws with 1:25 left in the half."They (Nevada) were obviously very prepared and ready to play," Kansas Coach Bill Self said."And I didn't do a good job obviously of getting my team ready to play for whatever reason and that's on me. They deserve what they got tonight and we deserve what we got tonight," he said late Sunday night.With Nevada leading 40-20 at the half, Snyder followed a reverse layup with a 3-pointer from the right baseline to put Nevada ahead 49-24 with 17:14 remaining.Kansas responded with seven straight points on J.R. Giddens' layup and three-pointer and Miles' basket inside to cut it to 49-31.But Snyder scored on a drive and hit a 3-pointer for a 54-33.Jeff Hawkins hit a 3-pointer to spark an 8-0 run capped by Miles' drive for a score to make it 54-41 with 11 minutes left.But Snyder and Okeson each made a pair of free throws to go up 60-41 after Snyder was fouled by Jeff Graves and Hawkins was called for a technical foul under the basket.Kansas rallied one last time with a 14-4 run when Simien scored twice inside, Hawkins turned a steal into a layup and Langford hit a 3-pointer to pull within 64-55 at 3:48.Kansas freshman David Padgett of Reno had consecutive field goals and Miles drove for the score to make it 68-61 with 1:47 left.Snyder made three free throws and Okeson and Pinkney two each down the stretch to seal the win.