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Nevada falls just shy in 68-63 loss to Saint Mary’s

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at St. Mary’s Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A late surge from the Saint Mary’s Gaels (12-2) earned them a 68-63 win over the Nevada Wolf Pack in the newly built Chase Center on Saturday Night.

Nevada was ahead 57-54 with 5:54 remaining when things began to fall apart. The Pack clunked seven of its final nine shots, propelling a 12-2 Gaels surge in the next five minutes. The dagger came from Preseason All-WCC nominee Jordan Ford, putting the Gaels ahead 66-59 with 54 seconds remaining.

Saturday’s loss drops Nevada to 8-5 on the season, finishing with a 7-5 non-conference record.

Nevada shot 42.9 percent from the floor, including 37.9 percent from deep. Three players eclipsed double figures for the Pack. Jazz Johnson led the Pack with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. The 5-foot-10 sharpshooter currently ranks T-8 across Division-I in total three-point field goals (42) and No. 24 in three-point field goals per game (3.23).

Jalen Harris added 13 points on 6-of-17 from the field with a team-high eight rebounds. Zane Meeks reached double-digits for the second consecutive game off the bench, totaling 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting from deep in 21 minutes.

Saturday marked the worst three-point game for the Gaels this season. They ranked atop Division-I in three-point field goal percentage (.473) and No. 6 in total three-pointers made (129) heading into the contest.

They missed 12 of their first 13 three-point baskets, canning a lowly 3-of-20 (.150) from deep in its worst three-point shooting performance on the season.

The Gaels found driving lanes to exploit throughout the contest, outscoring the Pack 42-32 inside the painted area.

Ford and Malik Fitts, also a Preseason All-WCC nominee, led the scoring for the Gaels. Fitts tallied 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, hauling in six rebounds. After four first half points, Ford finished with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting while playing all 40 minutes.

Although it did not impact the final result, the depth of Nevada proved to be dominant compared to the Gaels. While Nevada produced 22 bench points, all 68 points produced from Saint Mary’s came from the starting lineup as the bench went a combined 0-for-4 from the field.

A uncontested layup from Johnson put Nevada ahead 20-17 with 11:08 remaining in the first half. The Pack led 38-32 with under 30 seconds remaining heading into the half until a buzzer-beating three by Tommy Kuhse cut Nevada’s lead to 38-35 heading into the break.

Nevada led for over 15 minutes in the first half, draining a total of 56 percent of its shots and 56 percent from deep.

The Pack sputtered coming out of halftime, missing 12 of its first 15 shots which propelled the Gaels to a 17-7 run in the first 10 minutes, 14 seconds. The back-and-forth swung in Nevada’s favor with 5:54 left after a three-point play from Harris, giving the Pack a 57-54 lead.

Nevada shot 31.0 percent of its shots in the second half, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc after making five in the first half.

The Wolf Pack return home to take on Colorado State as Mountain West play resumes on New Year’s day. Tip off will be at 7 p.m. PDT on AT&T SportsNet.

Nevada’s 68-63 versus Saint Mary’s loss drops them to 8-5.