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Nevada basketball surges past Colorado State at Lawlor

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Jarod Lucas and Will Baker each had 16 points as the Nevada Wolf Pack’s late surge overcame a pesky Colorado State Ram team 80-69 in Mountain West conference play at Lawlor Events Center on Wednesday night.

Nevada (13-3, 3-0 MW) and Colorado State (8-8, 0-3 MW) exchanged leads multiple times and each played through lengthy dry spells. But it was the Wolf Pack once again stepping up late to secure the win.

“I mentioned it on my radio show last night, we really don’t have enough experience to be figuring out how they’re doing it in the last eight minutes,” said a pleased head coach Steve Alford. “But our last eight minutes throughout the season has just been really good.”

The phrase, “flip the switch” is an overused cliché, but it really does appear to be what happens on somewhat of a regular basis. Down by five with 6:50 to play, and the Rams getting hot from beyond the arc, the Wolf Pack just collectively appeared to find a different gear on both ends of the floor.

The result was a 21-5 run for the rest of the game and an 11-point win that was anything but easy.

In the middle of it again was Tyler Powell. Powell knocked down a three-pointer to knot the game at 64-64 and had five points and three rebounds in his 11 minutes on the floor. The sophomore 6’-5” guard is proving to be a spark plug with a knack for making key plays with his limited minutes.

“I thought Tyler made a huge shot,” said Alford. “I mean you’ve just got to watch Tyler, he gets so excited. When you take him out he’s going to break somebody’s hand. His high-fives are like a heavyweight fight so I just get out of the way.” Alford continued, “But I love his enthusiasm. He’s a huge spark off our bench and I love what he’s doing. He gives us energy.”

The first half was a whistle-filled, stop-and-start quagmire with 22 total fouls and 20 free throw attempts.

Tyler Powell once again provided energy and spark when the Wolf Pack needed it most in Nevada’s 80-69 win vs Colorado State at Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 4, 2023. (Michael Smyth / This is Reno)

The Wolf Pack jumped out to early 8-0, and 12-4 advantages only to have the Rams claw their way back to tie the game at 23-23 on a Colorado State three-pointer from Joe Palmer.

Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear picked up his second foul shortly thereafter. With freshman Trey Pettigrew and junior Daniel Foster manning the point, the Wolf Pack leaned on Nick Davidson for some tough inside scoring, who led Nevada with 10 first-half points.

The Rams got another triple from Jalen Lake to take a 28-27 lead with just over five minutes to go, but Nevada extended their perimeter defense and began shutting down the lanes to outscore Colorado State 13-3 over the final 5:16 of the half and go to the locker room up by nine 40-31.

The Rams opened the second half by scoring the first five points and pushed within two at 45-43 courtesy of a 12-5 run in the opening five minutes.

Nevada would reassume control on a Jarod Lucas three and a pair of free throws each from Will Baker and Nick Davidson to surge ahead 52-43 with 12:30 left to play.

The Rams however would not go away with both Isaiah Stevens and Patrick Cartier finding success in the paint, and knotting things 54-54 with half a period left.

Although three of the Rams were in foul trouble with three personals each, including their dominant inside force Cartier, Nevada kept settling for the easy perimeter and three point looks despite only hitting at an 18% rate to that juncture.

Colorado State meanwhile had converted on 6-of-12 of their long-distance attempts in the second half and built a 64-59 lead with 6:50 to go.

And that’s when this young team, without the experience, somehow did it again and flipped the switch.

Freshman Darrion Williams continues to deliver playing big minutes with seven points and seven boards in Nevada’s 80-69 win vs Colorado State at Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 4, 2023. (Michael Smyth / This is Reno)

Nevada’s defense found their energy, got in their man’s faces and started beating their opponents to the spot. The defensive stops seemed to wear down the Rams and the open looks that had been clanging off the iron began to drop on the offensive end.

Darrion Williams, Kenan Blackshear and Tyler Powell propelled the Wolf Pack on a 10-0 run to get back in front 69-64 with 4:13 remaining. Rather than relax, Nevada’s defense became even more aggressive in their guarding and double-teams.

Will Baker, who for the second time in four games had another perfect night from the field and stripe, canned long-distance bombs on back-to-back possessions to let all the air out of the Colorado State balloon. With 2:07 on the clock the Wolf Pack had stretched the advantage to an insurmountable nine points at 76-67 and the defense closed the deal.

Next up: Nevada travels to the Bay Area to take on San Jose State on Jan. 7 at 1p.m., then heads south to take on San Diego State on Jan. 10 at 8 p.m. The Wolf Pack returns home for a Friday the 13th hosting Utah State at 8 p.m.

Notes

  • The Wolf Pack moved to 3-0 in Mountain West play for the first time since 2019-20.
  • Nevada had five players score in double figures.
  • Jarod Lucas’ 16-point night gives him 277, tops in the Mountain West.
  • Nevada shot an astounding 58% from the field, making seven of their last eight shots in the game and four of their last five three-point shots.
  • The Wolf Pack was deadly from the free throw line going 21-23 and making all 11attempts in the second half. The Rams only shot 13 from the stripe, making nine, for a +11 advantage from the line…the exact margin of victory.
  • Nevada dished out 15 assists on 26 made baskets.
  • The Wolf Pack scored 17 points off 15 turnovers.

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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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