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Nevada falls to Utah State 80-70 for second consecutive loss

The Pack falls in back-to-back conference games for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

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

Utah State (14-5, 3-3) snapped its three-game losing skid with a 80-70 victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Saturday Night.

Saturday’s loss drops Nevada to 10-7 with a 3-2 conference record. The Pack have suffered back-to-back losses in conference play for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

Nevada shot 39 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from three-point range. Jalen Harris totaled 31 points — tying his career-high — on 9-of-18 shooting, hitting 5-of-8 from deep. That was Harris’ second 30-point game on the season. He now possesses 14 double-digit outings of the 16 games he’s played in this year.

Jazz Johnson was the only other Pack player to produce double-digit scoring, doing so for the fifth time in his last six games. He added 18 points on 6-of-14 from the floor and 3-for-8 from beyond the arc.

Nevada only collected 12 assists, the fourth-fewest assist total on the year.

Utah State shot 46.3 percent from the field and 29.2 from deep. Neemias Queta caused trouble for the Wolf Pack all evening. He topped Utah State with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. The reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year is now averaging 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in seven games on the year.

Sam Merrill -- who was No. 4 in the conference in scoring heading into Saturday -- tallied 12 points on 2-of-6 shooting from deep. The 6-foot-5 guard added eight rebounds and eight assists, both team-highs. Diogo Brito added 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

For the second consecutive game, the Wolf Pack got out-muscled on the boards. They got out-rebounded 43-28 -- the second-largest rebounding deficit Nevada’s faced this season -- also finishing a minus-four on the offensive glass. The Pack are now 1-5 (.167) when losing the rebound battle, and 9-2 (.818) when they win it.

Utah State continued its dominance from the free throw line tonight, hitting 23-of-30 from the stripe. The Aggies entered Saturday hitting more free throws (303) than its opponents have attempted (263). Nevada netted 14 free throws on 20 attempts.

Both teams struggled mightily shooting early. Nevada missed 16 of its first 20 shots and Utah State missed 13 of its first 16 shots.

A three-pointer from Merrill quickly gave the Aggies a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes, 48 seconds. The lead opened up to 24-8 after a smooth layup from Abel Porter.

Back-to-back three-pointers from Harris cut Utah State’s lead to 24-18 with 5:04 remaining in the first half. Harris tallied 12 of Nevada’s first 18 points.

Utah State went on its own run. The Aggies scored eight unanswered until back-to-back baskets from Zane Meeks trimmed the lead to 32-23, which would be the score heading into halftime.

Only trailing by nine at halftime, the Pack shot a dismal 25 percent from the floor and 30 percent from deep. Utah State had canned 35.3 of its first half shots, but only hitting 21.4 percent of its three-point attempts. The Aggies were a plus-12 on the glass in the first half.

Utah State opened the second half hitting five of its first seven shots. Queta continued to dominate down low, as back-to-back baskets giving them a 42-28 advantage.

Merrill increased the lead to 49-33 after his second three-pointer of the contest. Sean Bairstow added a three-pointer of his own, increasing the Aggies’ advantage to 57-39. Harris’ three-point basket cut it to 57-44 with 7:31 remaining, the lowest it would be trimmed for the remainder of the contest.

Queta’s dunk with 3:17 remaining capped off his dominant night, giving them a 68-51 lead. Johnson’s first three came with 2:20 remaining, but it was too little, too late.

Nevada returns home to take on the Wyoming Cowboys (5-13, 0-6) on Tuesday. Tip off will be at 7 p.m. PST at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada falls to 10-7, with a 3-2 conference record on the season.