The University of Nevada Men’s basketball team rode a strong defensive effort while outscoring the visiting Grand Canyon Antelopes 35-22 in the second half en-route to a 59-46 victory Saturday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.
Grand Canyon entered the contest 2-0 after wins over defending Big Sky conference champions Montana State and San Diego Christian. Led by junior guard Jovan Blacksher Jr., the preseason consensus pick to win conference player of the year in the WAC, the Wolf Pack faced a mild test in their second game of the year.
The win moves the Wolf Pack to 2-0 in non-conference play.
The antelopes kept it close early as momentum surged back and forth with neither team holding an advantage at the half as they headed to the locker room knotted at 24-24.
Grand Canyon opened the second half on a 6-0 run led by Blacksher Jr to take a 30-24 lead before senior forward K.J. Hymes potted a pair of free throws with 15:55 left to get Nevada out of their initial funk.
The Antelopes would push the lead to 33-26 after a three-pointer from Blacksher Jr before the Wolf Pack turned its focus to the inside-outside game and using their size advantage to draw contact. While still semi-frigid from the field, Nevada tightened up their defense and began to close the gap at the free throw line.
Senior transfer guard Jarod Lucas made a pair from the stripe to get Nevada within one at 36 – 35 with 11:39 left to play, and that’s when Will Baker picked a great time to end his 0 for 6 line he’d amassed to that point in the game.
The 6-11 junior center with the deceptively sweet stroke from beyond the arc hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions. Freshman guard Trey Pettigrew added another before Baker canned his third attempt in a row from downtown. The flurry, combined with stops on the defensive end propelled the Wolf Pack to 47-39 advantage with 8:17 left to play, much to the delight of the modest Saturday afternoon crowd.
Grand Canyon’s other dynamic scorer, sophomore guard Chance McMillian would hit a long three to bring the Antelopes with three points at 44 – 47, but Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear would take over on both ends with his physical play leading to defensive stops and securing free throw opportunities on the offensive end scoring six of Nevada’s final eight points to secure the win.
Next up: Nevada hosts William Jessup at Lawlor Events Center on November 15 at 7:00pm before heading out on the road for the first time this season with games at Texas-Arlington and Tulane.
Senior guard Kenan Blackshear led all players with 20 points on a 50% shooting afternoon. He also led Nevada with six rebounds, five assists, and one steal.
Will Baker and Jarod Lucas each chipped in with nine points. All of Baker’s points coming via the three-pointer, and Lucas made all four of his free throw attempts.
Nevada’s defense, after allowing Grand Canyon to begin the half hitting five of their first eight shots, held GCU to converting only one of their last 13 shots and one of nine from beyond the arc.
Crand Canyon’s Jovan Blacksher Jr. finished with 16 points, and his back court partner Chance McMillian added 13.
Nevada freshman forward Darrion Williams added six points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
The Wolf Pack had 15 free throw attempts in the second half compared with just six in the first half. They shot 80% from the line.
Nevada was out-rebounded 38-37.
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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.