The University of Nevada Men’s basketball team continues to rely on strong defense early in the 2022-23 campaign and thus far, it’s paying off in victories.
Nevada smothered the visiting William Jessup Warriors from the opening tip and were rewarded with a 98-54 win on Tuesday night, moving to 3-0 in non-conference play.
William Jessup came into Lawlor Events Center as on offensive juggernaut, averaging 85 points per game and converting on nearly 50% of their shots from the field.
The Wolf Pack, however, was having none of it. Using a tight-checking defense and defending all the way out beyond the arc, Nevada held the Warriors to just 22% shooting in the first half — which is when this contest was decided — and allowing only a single free throw attempt.
The Nevada offense, by contrast, turned Warrior misses into open looks on the offensive end.
The Wolf Pack took full advantage of the opportunities their defensive effort provided, shooting 40% from the field including 58% from three-point land. Their aggression on offense was rewarded with 18 shots from the charity stripe, converting 13 times.
In a rare occurrence in the Steve Alford era, the home team was fully in command of this one by halftime with a dominating 42-18 advantage and were never threatened the rest of the way.
“We’re really focused these first games on building habits,” said Head Coach Steve Alford. “We’re by no means a finished product but I like what we’re seeing and building. To be up big and then go out and win the second half by even more says a lot about this young team.”
About the only question left to answer in the second half would be whether Nevada could eclipse the century mark, and how many players would register a point off the bench.
The answers would be: if coach Alford had not ordered them to dribble out the last possession, probably, and everyone except freshman forward John Flannigan. Despite his teammate’s best efforts to get him the ball in the last minute of play, he missed both of his shot attempts.
Flannigan did get on the scoresheet however, registering one assist and one turnover.
Led by Kenan Blackshear’s 12-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, the first for a Nevada player in 43 years, Nevada had five players (Blackshear, Jarod Lucas, K.J. Hymes, Nick Davidson and Trey Pettigrew) score in double figures.
It was a big night for the freshmen including Darrion Williams showing off more aspects of his game, leading Nevada with 11 rebounds while chipping in seven points.
But the biggest star of the game may have been one of the quietest on the score sheet. Junior Tre’ Coleman, along with some defensive minutes from redshirt freshman Nick Davidson, shut down the Warriors’ leading scorer Cash Williams, who came in averaging 22.8 per game and finished with zero points. Coleman also finished with a career-high four blocked shots.
All told, it was a positive way to send the Wolf Pack off on their first road trip of the season, where they’ll face their toughest opponents to date.
Coach Alford left with this: “We’re leaving the comforts of home, the home fans, the building you’ve been practicing in. Defense travels easier than offense and we’ve got to do that. If we’re going to be successful on this road trip, we’ve got to guard at a high level.”
Next up: Nevada heads out on the road for the first time this season with games at Texas-Arlington on Friday and Tulane next Tuesday. They return home to Lawlor on Nov. 28 vs. Sam Houston State at 7 p.m.
- Center Will Baker did not suit up due to a foot infection but is expected back at practice soon.
- The Wolf Pack offense recorded 23 assists on 31 field goals.
- Nevada had a 39-20 advantage off the bench.
- Nevada won the rebounding battle 45-32.
- Nevada shot 52% from three-point distance (14-for-27) and 52% from the field (31-for-59).