Despite the contest not being held in the well-known atmosphere, known as “The Pit”, the contest between the Nevada Wolf Pack and the New Mexico Lobos still lived up to the typical 40-minute competitive battle, though the score might reflect it.
Nevada earned the 68-54 victory over the New Mexico Lobos on Thursday in Lubbock, Texas in a hard-fought, gritty battle.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Albuquerque, but COVID-19 protocols forced a relocation of the contest.
Nevada head coach Steve Alford has now won all three of his matchups against his former program. He was the head coach at New Mexico from 2007-13, winning six championships (four regular season, two conference) in six seasons.
Nevada shot 38.5 percent from the floor, making just four of its 18 3-point tries. In its last two games, it has made just 14.3 percent of its 3-point attempts after netting 37.1 percent from outside in its first eight games.
Desmond Cambridge led the Pack with 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, hitting 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. It was his fourth 20-point performance in the last five games, averaging 21.4 points in that span.
Grant Sherfield tallied 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Warren Washington, the Pack’s only other double figure scorer, added 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting with six rebounds.
The Pack tallied just five assists on the evening, with Sherfield dishing out a team-high two. Tre Coleman, Robby Robinson and DeAndre Henry had one apiece.
New Mexico posted a lowly 31.0 field goal percentage, including 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
In its three conference games, the Lobos are netting just 32.7 percent of their shots and just 23.8 percent of their 3-point shots.
They struggled mightily from the free throw line, netting just 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) of their attempts. Nevada went 24-of-31 (77.4 percent) from the charity stripe.
New Mexico’s leading scorer was Makuach Maluach with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He has led the team in scoring in five of the team’s first six games. Rod Brown added 14 points on just 3-of-10 shooting, but made eight of his 14 free throw attempts. Brown hauled-in a team-high 11 rebounds with four assists.
The two conference foes combined for 31 turnovers and tallied 26 points in the paint apiece.
New Mexico out-rebounded Nevada 45-42, including 18-10 on the offensive glass. Though both teams combined for 28 offensive rebounds, they totaled just 10 combined second-chance points.
The win advances the Wolf Pack to 7-3 with a 2-1 Mountain West record. New Mexico drops to 3-3 and is wineless in its first three conference contests.
In its seven victories this season, Nevada’s holding opponents to 33.8 percent shooting with a 27.1 3-point percentage.
The Wolf Pack struggled to generate any offense in the first seven minutes, missing its first eight attempts over that span. It made its following three baskets — a tipped-in dunk (Washington), jumpshot (Sherfield) and a fastbreak layup (Cambridge) — struck a jolt in the Pack offense, tying the game at nine with 12:06 to go.
Nevada started 3-of-15 from the floor, while New Mexico began 5-of-18. The Pack missed their first 11 3-point attempts on the evening.
Washington’s reverse layup gave Nevada a 17-14 lead with 6:23 to go in the first half. Three possessions later, he followed with a thundering two-handed slam to extend the advantage to 21-16.
The Pack capped-off the final 4:15 of the first half on an 11-4 run, entering halftime with a 32-22 lead. Nevada shot 38.5 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point range in the first half. The Pack went 0-of-10 from deep, but 10-of-16 from inside the arc.
Saquan Singleton’s layup cut the Pack lead to 36-27 with 17:44 to go. After missing their first 11 attempts from outside, Cambridge nailed the Pack’s first 3-pointer to give them a 48-35 advantage, prompting a Lobo timeout.
An 11-1 run — jolted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Cambridge and Sherfield — extended Nevada’s lead to 56-36 with 9:53 remaining. The Lobos responded with a 12-4 run — cutting the deficit to 12 — but it was not enough.
Despite Nevada not recording a field goal in the final 2:47, its double-digit advantage did not relinquish. It possessed a double-digit lead for the final 16:18.
The two will end its two-game season series on Saturday at 7 p.m. PST on CBS Sports Network.