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Nevada lacks toughness in loss to Wyoming (photos)

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The Nevada Wolf Pack lost to the visiting Wyoming Cowboys (10-2, 2-0 MW) 77-67 in Mountain West Conference play Monday night at Lawlor Events Center.

The Wolf Pack, (8-7, 2-2 MW) fell victim to a 40% shooting night from beyond the three-point line from the Cowboys, while making a dismal 20% of their own 30 attempts from distance.

More than that, according to head coach Steve Alford, was that they fell victim to a lack of toughness, a commitment to playing hard for 40 minutes, and some poor attitudes. All of which Alford said was on him and his coaching staff.

During his post-game presser Alford appeared frustrated with both his team of players and his team of coaches and their failure to figure out the recipe for consistent play with what is a talented group of individuals.

“We’re not tough enough, and that’s on me,” said Alford. “The game plan was inside, inside, inside and get to the foul line and we didn’t do that. When things aren’t working it’s a lot easier just to throw up a 25-footer and that’s a toughness thing.

“We had a lot of guys with a ‘woe is me’ attitude. If I’m not getting the ball or the flow is not right then get tougher and do something different, take a charge, block a shot, run the floor and right now we’re not responding that way. In my opinion it’s just too much ‘me’ instead of ‘we’.”

“Just as players need to change their mindset when things aren’t going well, we gotta do that as coaches whether it’s how long we practice, how we practice, what we do in practice. We gotta figure out different ways to get them to play harder and tougher over 40 minutes. I think we do that in spurts, but this league is not going to let you take possessions off and we do that too much,” Alford said.

Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries, who averages 10.9 points per game simply rained threes in the first half. The senior guard was 6-of-9 from deep, accounting for 20 points while playing all 20 minutes. Drake’s running mate in the back court, Hunter Maldonado racked up nine assists in a full 20 minutes on the floor, many of those feeds to Jeffries.

Maldonado consistently drove the lane, causing Nevada’s defense to sag and leaving wide open looks on Maldonado’s perimeter kick-outs.

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Grant Sherfield played all 40 minutes during Nevada’s 77-67 loss vs Wyoming on January 17, 2022 at Lawlor Events Center(Mike Smyth / This is Reno)

Nevada’s Grant Sherfield also played the full 20 minutes (and would eventually play all 40), leading the Wolf Pack with 14 points and five assists.

Will Baker chipped in nine points and four boards. Baker, Warren Washington and KJ Hymes combined to keep the Cowboys’ 6-9, 250-lb. Graham Ike mostly in check with 11 points.

Despite Jeffries’ hot first half, The Pack headed to the locker room only trailing 40-38 thanks to 55% shooting.

Clearly not content with his play in the first half, Ike muscled in Wyoming’s first seven points of the second until committing his third foul with 14 minutes to play.

With Ike on the bench Nevada, went on a 5-0 run to draw even at 47-47, only to have Wyoming counter with a 6-1 run of their own to assume a 53-48 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining.

With Ike still on the bench and Warren Washington picking up his fourth foul, the lineups got a bit smaller and both defenses clamped down with both teams scoring less than 10 points each in six minutes of play.

At the 6:21 mark and Wyoming maintaining a 61-55 lead, Ike returned with KJ Hymes drawing the primary defensive assignment. 

After the aggressive and physical Ike scored a hard inside bucket and drew a foul on Hymes with the same hard-nosed move on the next possession, he deposited both free throws for a 65-55 lead. Alford had no choice but to re-insert Washington with 5:16 left.

Ike would finish with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead Wyoming.

Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear’s third three-pointer of the game drew Nevada to 68-61, only to have Wyoming’s Brendan Wenzel can one of his 16 seconds later with 3:21 on the clock.

Blackshear made a pair of free throws at 2:08 to close within 73-67.

The Pack played solid defense, keeping Wyoming off the scoreboard on their next two possessions and keep them within striking distance. But as was the case all night, with Nevada converting only six of their 30 tries, Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Grant Sherfield both missed open three-pointers on Nevada’s two trips down the floor to seal their fate.

KJ Hymes was asked how this Wolf Pack team can turn things around. “We just… we just have to lock in, we have to be together, and we have to stay together.”

Next up for the Wolf Pack: Fresno State at Lawlor Events Center, Friday at 8 p.m.

Notes

  • The Wolf Pack has lost the last four meetings with the Cowboys.
  • Wyoming’s Graham Ike led his team inside where they won points in the paint 30-26.
  • Grant Sherfield recorded his 1,000th point with a three-pointer in the first half.
  • Nevada won the battle on the glass 39-35.
Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth is a writer and photographer who moved to Reno from the Bay Area in 2007. Michael retired from a corporate road-warrior sales career in 2017 where he wrote freelance small-venue music reviews on the side to keep his sanity on the road. When he isn't covering a concert or sporting event he might be found concocting a salsa recipe, throwing barbless flies in search of trout, or recapturing the skip-and-stop wedge shot of his youth.

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