Nevada men’s basketball snapped its two-game skid Tuesday with a 68-67 thriller over the Wyoming Cowboys (5-14, 0-7) at Lawlor Events Center.
Tuesday’s win bumps Nevada’s record to 11-7 with a 4-2 conference record. Nevada is 7-2 at home this season.
The Wolf Pack trailed 65-64 with 36 seconds remaining. Nevada’s Nisre Zouzoua stole the ball in the backcourt from Kenny Foster, leading to a dunk to take a 66-65 lead.
Zouzoua missed a crucial layup the possession before, and the senior responded to the challenge on the next possession.
“I took responsibility,” Zouzoua said. “As a senior coming in, those are the plays I have to make. Instead of sulking my head, coach challenged me to make another play and that’s how the steal came about.”
Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado — the conference’s 3rd-highest scorer heading into Tuesday — answered with a jumper with 17 seconds left, prompting a Wolf Pack timeout.
Nevada drew one final play up for junior guard Jalen Harris. He drove to the hoop with ferociousness, finishing a left-handed layup to erupt the 8,047 fans in attendance.
“We wanted exactly what (Harris) did,” head coach Steve Alford said on the final play. “In that situation, it’s get to the rim with the two shot bonus … we thought he could get to the rim and he did a great job of that.”
NEVER. A. DOUBT.— Nevada Basketball (@NevadaHoops) January 15, 2020
Jalen Harris with the game-winner and Lindsey Drew with the board to secure the 15th consecutive home conference win for the Wolf Pack!
Nevada 68, Wyoming 67#BattleBorn pic.twitter.com/ifDouL25k3
Maldonado and Kwane Marble II missed the final two opportunities at the other end, falling just short for Wyoming’s fifth consecutive loss.
“One of the hardest things to do in basketball is 8 to 12 seconds left and the team is coming full boar at you and you know you can’t foul, that’s hard.” Alford said. “To not foul, challenge his shot on their best player and to get the rebound, we made some winning plays. It was good to see because we didn’t do that versus SJSU.”
Wyoming threw multiple looks at Nevada defensively, mixing in a 2-3 zone and a 3-2 zone throughout the game. It forced the Wolf Pack into difficult contests from around the perimeter throughout the night, holding Nevada to 41.7 percent shooting with six three-point makes on 24 attempts. Nevada’s six threes are tied for the third-fewest on the season.
Wyoming has held opponents to single-digit three-pointers in 16 of its 19 games this season.
Nevada had three double-digit scorers. Jalen Harris eclipsed double-digit scoring for the 14th straight game. He led all Pack scorers with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting, hauling in six rebounds.
Jazz Johnson added 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Johnson eclipsed 1,400 collegiate points on the evening. Zouzoua added 12 points off the bench on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor.
The Wolf Pack did a strong job on the glass, finishing a plus-8, its second-largest margin on the season. They also finished a plus-five on the offensive boards.
Wyoming shot 42.6 percent from the floor and 32.0 percent from deep. Maldonado had a team-high 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor, dishing out a team-high 10 assists. It’s his second double-double of the season. Hunter Thompson added 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep.
Three consecutive three-point baskets gave Nevada the 15-9 advantage with 11:10 left in the first half. A.J. Banks’ jumpshot cut Nevada’s lead to 17-15 with 7:28 remaining in the half.
Harris’ jumper followed by a fastbreak dunk extended the Pack’s lead to 30-23 with 1:01 remaining in the first half. Nevada walked into halftime with a 32-26 lead.
The Wolf Pack shot 41.9 percent and 26.7 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Wyoming made three of its first four threes to begin the second half — capped off on a four-point play from Jake Hendricks — to tie the contest at 36.
The two conference foes would trade leads for the remainder of the contest in the nailbiter.
Kenny Foster’s dunk put the Cowboys ahead 44-42 with 12:39 remaining for their first lead of the contest.
The Wolf Pack took a 61-60 lead with 2:41 remaining on a posterizing dunk from Harris over Foster which brought the Lawlor fans to its feet.
After Nevada took a 64-62 lead, Thompson answered with a three to put the Cowboys up 65-64 with 50.8 seconds remaining. The Wolf Pack eventually pulled away with the win. Nevada is now 1-1 in one-score games this season.
Nevada travels to take on No. 7 San Diego State (18-0, 7-0) on Saturday at Viejas Arena. Tip off will be at 5 p.m. PST.