The Nevada Wolf Pack made history Tuesday night at the Lawlor Events Center by celebrating the 22ndnd Rank San Diego State Aztecs 75-66.
Nevada had never before beat two ranked teams at home in one season. Combined with their double overtime win against New Mexico, the Wolf Pack pulled off the feat in back-to-back home games.
The Wolf Pack bench was edged 29-1 by the Aztec 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 simply sensational at both ends of the court.
“I thought Jarod and Tré played really well. Tre hit some big threes and defended extremely well,” said head coach Steve Alford. “Jarod was consistently good and a bear to guard and Will turned a corner. Will’s demeanor differs from his and he’s started talking and demanding the ball. It’s hilarious but it’s what we wanted (from him) so now we have to get him the ball and he did a really good job.”
San Diego State’s calling card is their sheer depth at each position, which essentially touts enough talent to have 10 starters. Nevada had to play a near-perfect game to beat them, and that’s pretty much what they did.
The starters of the Wolf Pack were so good Tuesday that they not only had 74 points combined, but also committed a paltry six turnovers and 11 fouls as a group to defend the top team in the Mountain West.
Nevada improved to 17-6 overall, 7-3 at Mountain West and is the only team in the conference perfect at 11-0 at home. It’s the pack’s first win against the Aztecs since 2019 and Alford’s first as head coach in Nevada.
San Diego State still sits atop Mountain West 8-2 in conference play, but the Wolf Pack made things a lot more interesting going for third place.
New Mexico and Utah State sit 6-3 in fourth place in a conference where four teams have a realistic chance of making it into the NCAA tournament field.
San Diego State hosts Boise State on Friday night.
One thing the above teams have in common is that Nevada beat them all at Lawlor this season.
In the first half, the pack prevented the Aztecs from taking an early lead like they did in their first meeting earlier this season. San Diego State enjoyed a seven-point lead at the start, 11-4, but Nevada would fight back to even it and take an 8:47 lead of the half, 18-14.
Both teams relied on their stars to step up and score. SDSU’s Matt Bradley had 13 points and backcourt colleague Darrion Trammell had another eight points, while Nevada was led by Lucas with 14 points on five of nine shooting stages. Kenan Blackshear had eight and center Will Baker had six points and five rebounds.
The Wolf Pack broke up 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 turned that around with a quick four points to take the 32-30 lead.
With almost 15 minutes to go, The Pack extended their lead to seven points by 42:35. However, the Aztecs would break away and regain the lead on a 56-55 trammel layup with 5:40 remaining.
Matt Bradley scored his only second-half bucket, a three-pointer for SDSU at the 4:29 mark to give the Aztecs their final 60-59 lead.
At this point, Nevada turned to their defense, forcing SDSU into several long possessions and difficult shots. The Aztecs converted just one of their last seven out of the field.
“I thought we did a lot of really good things defensively,” Alford said. “We even played them on the boards and I thought we defended really well.”
The Wolf Pack, on the other hand, who have repeatedly proven themselves to be strong finishers, converted eight of the last nine, including a difficult fallaway from the seven-foot tall Baker and a tough left-hander off the glass from Blackshear, while they were in the doubles team with 1:57 left to the to increase the lead to 67-62.
With 1:09 on the clock and Nevada still holding on to a five-point lead 69-64 after two Lucas free throws, the 9,357 fans in Lawlor rose to their feet as the Aztecs put the ball on the court brought.
SDSU’s Nathan Mensah switched to lane, but Freshman of the Year nominee Darrion Williams was ready. As the pass reached Mensah, so did Williams, who connected Mensah for a saved ball, and with the possession arrow pointed at 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 massive,” Alford said. “We got a big one on Friday and we need to take the next step and get a sell-off.”
Up next: Nevada hosts the Air Force at 8:00 p.m. Friday, then travels on to meet New Mexico at The Pit on February 7 at 7:30 p.m
- San Diego State was 22-0 as he made at least seven three-point attempts.
- SDSU went into the game 5-0 away.
- SDSU’s backfield 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 main defenders.
- Nevada went 12-12 from the free throw line in the final 4:48.
- Nevada scored an amazing 65% in the second half.
- There were 12 draws and 16 lead changes in the game.
- Nevada let four players score double digits.
- Daniel Foster had the only bank point and converted a free throw.