Nevada basketball started out the new decade on a high note.
Despite a late second-half scare, Nevada claimed a 67-61 victory over the Colorado State Rams (9-7, 0-3) on Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center. This is Nevada’s eighth straight victory over the Rams, with the last loss coming in the 2015-16 season when the Rams defeated Nevada 76-67 in Fort Collins.
The Wolf Pack held a 19-point lead with 13:11 remaining, coming close to diminishing entirely.
It was when Nevada possessed a 56-39 lead with 8:50 remaining, the deficit began to shrink.
Colorado State quieted the 8,659 fans in attendance after going on a 15-5 run in the next five minutes, 18 seconds, cutting it to 61-56 with 2:32 remaining capped off from a David Roddy layup. The Rams were unable to trim it any more, as clutch baskets from the Wolf Pack propelled them to victory.
Wednesday’s win improved Nevada to 9-5 and 2-0 in conference play.
Nevada shot 42.3 percent in the second half, 41.7 percent for the game compared to CSU’s 37.9 percent from the field. Nevada netted 9-of-26 from three-point range, good enough for a 34.6 percent.
Jalen Harris paved the way for the Wolf Pack. He tallied 15 of his 20 total points in the second half. The junior shot 8-of-13 from the floor and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-5 guard hauled in a team-high seven rebounds and dished out four assists.
Two more players reached double figures. Zane Meeks tallied 14 points — all coming in the first half — in 24 minutes off the bench. He shot 5-for-9 from the floor, including a career-high four makes on seven attempts from beyond the arc. Nisré Zouzoua added 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Wolf Pack’s bench scored 26 points — 22 coming in the first half — compared to Colorado State’s nine. Harris said he expects this type of performance from the bench, particularly Meeks, each time they step on the floor.
“We have a lot of guys who can start,” Harris said post-game. “It doesn’t surprise me when Zane goes out there and does that, or when [Zouzoua] does what he does. I see it every day in practice. So when I come in, I almost expect it from him. We hold him to the same standard as we hold our starters or anybody else.”
The Wolf Pack did a stout job defensively. They blocked a season-high eight shots, corralling five steals and making multiple hustle plays to pull away late in the game. The Rams did not record a blocked shot and had three steals.
Nevada head coach Steve Alford was impressed with his team’s defensive play in the game.
“I thought our rim protection was good,” Alford said. “We had good production out of everybody. The blocked shots and the rim protect was just good. We had eight blocked shots, they had none.
“I thought we were aggressive and our intensity defensively was pretty good for 40 minutes.”
Nevada held the Rams to 37.9 percent shooting from the floor, including 33.3 percent from deep.
Roddy led the way for the Rams, tying a season-high 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting with five rebounds. Isaiah Stevens added 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and went 2-for-5 from deep.
Preseason All-MWC honoree Nico Carvacho scored nine of 13 total points in the second half. The 6-foot-11 forward — who holds the conference record in rebounds and entered Wednesday third in the Mountain West with 10.4 rebounds per game — grabbed nine rebounds.
Coach Alford praised Carvacho’s play and gave his team credit for how defended him.
“[Carvacho] plays extremely hard,” Alford said. “I thought we challenged his shots well. We wanted to make him finish … he’s just a very good player.”
Meeks’ three-pointer gave Nevada a quick 10-4 advantage with 14:27 remaining, prompting an early Colorado State timeout. Meeks had eight of the first ten points for Nevada.
The Wolf Pack extended its lead to 23-10 after a three-pointer from Harris. Five consecutive points from P.J. Byrd cut Nevada’s lead to 23-15 with 7:01 remaining. The Rams were not able to trim the lead any further for the remainder of the half.
Lindsey Drew’s jump hook beat the buzzer to send Nevada into halftime with a 39-25 lead. The Wolf Pack shot 41.2 percent in the first half compared to Colorado State’s 30.8 percent.
Back-to-back threes from Harris and Johnson gave the Wolf Pack a 52-33 lead with 13:11 left in the second half. Colorado State trimmed the lead, but were unable to cut the deficit below five points in the defeat.
Nevada closes out its two-game homestand on Saturday, Jan. 4, when they take on Boise State. Tip off will be at 3 p.m. PST.