The Nevada Wolf Pack created history Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center by beating the 22nd ranked San Diego State Aztecs 75-66.
Nevada had never before beaten two ranked teams in one season at home. Combined with their double overtime victory over New Mexico, the Wolf Pack achieved the feat in back-to-back home games.
The Wolf Pack bench was outscored 29-1 by the Aztecs bench but it didn’t matter as Jarod Lucas (26 points, 4 rebounds), Will Baker (19 points, 9 rebounds), Kenan Blackshear (18 points, 7 assists), and Tre’ Coleman (11 points, 3 blocks) were all simply sensational on both ends of the floor.
“I thought Jarod and Tré played really well. Tré hit some huge threes and guarded extremely well,” Head Coach Steve Alford said. “Jarod was good throughout and was a bear to guard and Will turned a corner. Will’s got a different demeanor to him and he’s started to talk and demand the ball. It’s hilarious but it’s what we’ve wanted (from him) so now we got to get him the ball and he’s done a really good job.”
San Diego State’s calling card is their sheer depth at every position touting essentially enough talent to have 10 starters. Nevada needed to play close to a perfect game to beat them, and that’s pretty much what they did.
The Wolf Pack starters were so good Tuesday that not only did they score 74 points combined, but they committed a paltry six turnovers, and 11 fouls as a group defending the top team in the Mountain West.
Nevada moved to 17-6 overall, 7-3 in the Mountain West and is the only team in the conference to be perfect at home at 11-0. It’s the Pack’s first win over the Aztecs since 2019, and Alford’s first as head coach at Nevada.
San Diego State still sits atop the Mountain West tied with Boise State at 8-2 in conference play, but the Wolf Pack made things a lot more interesting moving into third place.
New Mexico and Utah State are tied for fourth at 6-3 in a conference where four teams have a realistic chance to make it into the NCAA Tournament field.
San Diego State hosts Boise State on Friday night.
One thing the teams above have in common is that Nevada has beaten all of them at Lawlor this season.
In the first half the Pack kept the Aztecs from jumping out to a big early lead as they had in their first meeting earlier this season. San Diego State enjoyed a seven-point bulge early on at 11-4, but Nevada would fight back to tie it and assume their largest lead of the half 18-14 with 8:47 left.
Both teams relied on their stars to step up and score. SDSU’s Matt Bradley had 13 points and backcourt-mate Darrion Trammell chipped in another eight, while Nevada was led by Lucas with 14 points on five-of-nine shooting. Kenan Blackshear had eight and center Will Baker chipped in with six points and five rebounds.
The Wolf Pack headed to the break down a pair at 30-28, but unlike their first matchup, they were very much in the game.
Nevada has had a tendency to start slow in the second half this season, but changed that with a quick four points to seize the lead at 32-30.
The Pack pushed the lead to seven points at 42-35 with just under 15 minutes left to play. The Aztecs would chip away however, and regain the lead on a Trammell layup 56-55 with 5:40 remaining.
Matt Bradley would score his only bucket of the second half, a three-pointer for SDSU at the 4:29 mark to give the Aztecs their final lead at 60-59.
At that point Nevada turned to their defense forcing SDSU into several long possessions and difficult shots. The Aztecs converted on only one of their last seven from the field.
“I thought defensively we did a lot of really good things,” said Alford. “We played them even on the boards and I thought we really defended well.”
The Wolf Pack, meanwhile, which has repeatedly shown itself to be a strong finisher, converted on eight of the last nine including a difficult fallaway by the seven-foot Baker, and tough left-hander off the glass by Blackshear while being double-teamed with 1:57 left to push the lead to 67-62.
With 1:09 on the clock and Nevada still clinging to a five-point margin at 69-64 after a pair of Lucas free throws, the 9,357 fans at Lawlor rose to their feet as the Aztecs brough the ball up court.
SDSU’s Nathan Mensah cut to the lane but Freshman of the Year candidate Darrion Williams was ready. When the pass reached Mensah, so too did Williams, who tied up Mensah for a held ball and with the possession arrow pointing towards Nevada the crowd erupted with the turnover.
“I’m really proud of our student body because the support they gave us tonight was huge, the crowd was tremendous” Alford said. “We got a big one on Friday and we need to take the next step and get a sellout.”
Next up: Nevada hosts Air Force on Friday at 8 p.m. and then travels to take on New Mexico at The Pit, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
- San Diego State was 22-0 when making at least seven three-point attempts.
- SDSU entered the game 5-0 away from home.
- SDSU’s backcourt of Matt Bradley and Darrion Trammell were held to three, and two points respectively in the second half. Tré Coleman and Jarod Lucas were the primary defenders.
- Nevada went 12-12 from the free throw line in the final 4:48.
- Nevada shot an astounding 65% in the second half.
- There were 12 ties and 16 lead changes in the game.
- Nevada had four players score in double figures.
- Daniel Foster had the only bench point, converting a free throw.