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Nevada basketball wins a thriller over Boise State (photos)

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Kenan Blackshear scored nine of his team-high 20 points in the game’s final two minutes as Nevada came from behind to beat the Boise State Broncos 74-72 in a back-and-forth affair to open Mountain West conference play at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada (11-3, 1-0 MW) and Boise State (10-4, 0-1 MW) entered their first Mountain West contest with matching 10-3 non-conference records.

The Broncos and Wolf Pack came in with high rankings in several categories with Boise State leading the MWC in points allowed at 58, and rebounding margin at +6.2 rebounds per game.

Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear led the conference in assists with 66, Jarod Lucas ranked second in points scored, and first in minutes per game and turnover ratio.

Nevada also entered ranked 10th in the country in converting free throws at a 78% clip.

What was anticipated as a physical game between a pair of defensive teams was exactly that through the opening 20 minutes.

The Nevada Wolf Pack earned a thrilling 74-72 victory vs Boise State at Lawlor Events Center on Dec. 28, 2022. (Michael Smyth / This is Reno)

The Broncos kept Nevada on the perimeter for the first 10 minutes and maintained a two-possession lead. Head coach Steve Alford tried a number of lineups with minimal success. Something clicked with the insertion of sophomore guard Tyler Powell with 12:01 to go in the half and Nevada down 15-11.

Powell brought defensive aggression, and a willingness to drive the lane and draw contact. Powell was in the game just three minutes but went two-for-two and made his only shot from the charity stripe for what seemed to be a momentum changing five points.

While the Bronco lead remained at four when he exited, he turned Nevada’s perimeter game into an inside game and Boise State racked up seven team fouls in the last 10 minutes of the half.

Nevada’s aggression on both ends began paying dividends. When Tre Coleman hit a three-pointer with 1:56 left, Nevada took its first lead of the game at 28-27. The Wolf Pack would finish the half on a 9-0 run to lead 30-27 at the break.

The Broncos opened the second half matching the aggression of the Wolf Pack and quickly struck for a 4-0 run to take the lead.

Boise State forward Naje Smith found a crack in the defense and took full advantage, with 12 points in the first nine minutes, on five layups and a dunk to give Boise a 50-46 lead.

Nevada would once again claw its way back and draw even at 53-53 on a Kenan Blackshear turnaround jumper, only to find themselves behind again at the under-eight media timeout by two, 55-53 after yet another Smith layup.

Smith’s basket became part of an 8-1 run that boosted the Bronco lead to seven at 61-54, which seemed to awaken a slumbering Will Baker, who was a perfect 13-for-13 in the prior game but had amassed just two points thus far. Baker snapped out of it just in time, scoring the next seven Nevada points to cut the lead to 63-61 with 3:41 left.

Boise State’s leading scorer, Marcus Shaver Jr. would convert just before the 30-second shot clock expired on the next possession to push the lead back to four, but Jarod Lucas dialed up long distance and Nevada was within one again at 65-64.

Shaver would again covernt for Boise before Kenan Blackshear, made a triple-move bank shot while getting hacked and converted on the foul shot to tie it at 67-67 with 2:05 to go.

A questionable foul under the basket on Will Baker sent Boise’s Lukas Milner to the line where he converted one shot to give the Broncos a 68-67 advantage. A charge on Jarod Lucas then gave Boise a chance to increase their lead, but a Kenan Blackshear steal squelched the opportunity with 1:10 left and Boise State up one as Steve Alford called timeout.

The Nevada Wolf Pack earned a thrilling 74-72 victory vs Boise State at Lawlor Events Center on Dec. 28, 2022. (Michael Smyth / This is Reno)

Boise State fouled a determined Kenan Blackshear on the inbound play, and the MWC leader in assists calmly converted both free throws to put Nevada in front 69-68.

Layups by Shaver Jr and Blackshear kept the Nevada lead at one until Boise State’s Pavle Kuzmanovic, in the game because both Tyson Degenhart and Naje Smith had fouled out, made a desperation last-second shot in the lane to give Boise the lead at 72-71 with 11 seconds on the clock.

Kenan Blackshear then took the ball on the inbound and everyone in the building knew he had no intention of doing anything other than heading to the hoop to either get fouled or score.

From the top of the key a fake to the outside, and a drop step gave Blackshear a clear path to the basket. Somehow the help on defense never came. The man who took over this season as basically the emergency point guard and has adjusted so quickly to the position, sliced to the hoop and finger-rolled the ball gently off the glass.

When his layup fell through the net, the Lawlor Events Center crowd exploded, and Nevada owned a 73-72 lead with just three seconds remaining.

I suggested you buy your tickets a couple of weeks ago. Get out to Lawlor. This is a gutsy bunch.

Next up: Nevada travels to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. The Wolf Pack returns to Lawlor Events Center, hosting Colorado State on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Notes

  • Nevada outscored Boise State 10-5 in the last 2:05 of game action.
  • After holding Boise State to 31% from the field in the first half, the Broncos shot 62% in the second half, scoring 45 points.
  • Nevada shot 54% from the field in the second half, scoring 44 points.
  • Boise State dominated points in the paint 34-16 and rebounds 38-28.
  • Nevada dished out 14 assists on 23 made baskets.
  • The Wolf Pack matched their season average from the free throw line at 78%.
  • The Wolf Pack scored 21 points off 13 turnovers.
  • No bats were spotted, and the lighting was in its full glory.

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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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