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Wolf Pack Preview: Nevada Basketball seeks second straight road win versus New Mexico

Steve Alford returns to The Pit for the first time since departing in 2013.

Nevada Athletics Department

Nevada (16-10, 9-5) vs. New Mexico (17-10, 6-8)

When: Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.

Where: University Arena “The Pit” in Albuquerque, N.M.

TV: ESPNU / Watch ESPN

Matchup Series: Tied at 7

Breakdown:

The Nevada men’s basketball team seeks its second straight road victory versus the New Mexico Lobos (17-10, 6-8) Tuesday in The Pit.

The Wolf Pack have struggled on the road this season, going 2-7 (.222) on the year. New Mexico is 14-2 (.875) inside The Pit this season.

Nevada won its first meeting of the season between the two schools. Nevada head coach Steve Alford won his 600th career game in the 96-74 win on Jan. 25. Nisre Zouzoua led the Pack with a career-high 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc off the bench.

Tuesday marks the first time Alford has coached inside The Pit since his departure from New Mexico in 2013, where he coached for six seasons.

New Mexico v Harvard
Head coach Steve Alford of the New Mexico Lobos reacts in the second half while taking on the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Alford went 155-52 (.749) with New Mexico, the most games he has won at any school. He led the Lobos to six Mountain West Championships (four regular season, two conference), including three NCAA tournament appearances and three NIT appearances.

Alford said it wouldn’t hit him about playing his former school until his visit to The Pit.

“It’ll really hit me when I’m back inside The Pit,” Alford said post-game after the Pack’s first meeting with New Mexico. “That’s a very special place in my mind. … I’ve played in incredible buildings … but The Pit is right up there as far as iconic, basketball buildings to me. It’ll hit me more in a month than it does tonight.”

Alford and Nevada’s assistant coaching staff has a lot of ties with New Mexico.

Assistant head coach Craig Neal was the assistant under Alford for all six seasons at New Mexico. Neal took over as head coach for four seasons after Alford departed for UCLA. Nevada’s director of player development, Kory Alford (Steve’s son), played for New Mexico for two seasons.

Nevada’s graduate assistant Roman Martinez played under Alford at New Mexico for three seasons (2007-10). Another Wolf Pack graduate assistant, Nathan Strong, was a student manager for the Lobos in 2018-19.

The Lobos sideline has ties with Alford. New Mexico head coach Paul Weir was an assistant for Alford at Iowa, while current New Mexico assistants were Brandon Mason and Craig Snow were Alford’s assistants at New Mexico.

The Wolf Pack are tied with Colorado State for third place in the MW standings at 9-5. New Mexico is seventh at 6-8.

New Mexico’s only two home losses have come in its last three home games. One came to No. 4 San Diego State — the lone unbeaten team in the country — in an 85-57 defeat.

The other came in its most recent contest to UNLV, falling 78-73. Makuach Maluach had a team-high 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

The Lobos have dropped seven of their last nine games. Their last seven losses have come by an average of 19.6 points.

New Mexico leads the conference and is 22nd nationally in scoring at 78.6 points per game. The Lobos rank atop the conference with a 47.6 field goal percentage, but are seventh in 3-point percentage at 32.9 percent.

The Lobos get a good chunk of their points from the free throw line. They have made more free throws (450) than their opponents have attempted (418). New Mexico sits atop the conference — No. 10 nationally — in free throw attempts with 627.

JaQuan Lyle leads New Mexico in scoring at 15.6 points per game. Lyle, in his first season of eligibility with New Mexico, is shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc on the year. The Ohio State transfer is second on the team in assists (4.6) and steals (1.3).

Lyle missed the first meeting of the season between Nevada and New Mexico with a knee injury. In three games since returning, Lyle is averaging 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 34.3 minutes per game. He is shooting 20 percent from the floor with a 21.4 3-point percentage in that span.

Corey Manigault (12.9 ppg) and Zane Martin (11.1 ppg) are the only active double-digit scorers for the Lobos.

Carlton Bragg Jr., New Mexico’s third leading scorer (12.6 ppg), was removed from the team Jan. 12 after DWI and possession charges — nine days after his three-game suspension was lifted. Bragg, who was New Mexico’s team captain to begin the season, led the team in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and blocks (1.5 bpg) in 15 games.

Manigault is shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from deep. He leads active Lobo players in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and blocks (0.6 bpg).

Martin is second among active players in assists (3.1) and is T-3 in steals (1.2). He is shooting 42.9 percent and the 26 percent from deep on the season.

JJ Caldwell, who was suspended indefinitely with Bragg last December, still has not returned to the program after suing the University. He was suspended for a situation involving his ex-girlfriend.

Caldwell was charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from the incident earlier this month. He led the team in assists (5.7 apg) and in steals (2.2), averaging 5.8 points in 13 games.

The Wolf Pack are coming off an 82-79 overtime victory over intrastate rival UNLV. Jalen Harris led Nevada with 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting. He added a career-high 14 rebounds.

Harris leads the conference in scoring at 21.5 points per game. He has tallied double-digit scoring in 22 consecutive games, averaging 23 points per contest in that span.

The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging a conference-best 25.9 points in 14 conference games. He is second on the team in assists (4.1 apg), rebounding (6.4 rpg) and steals (1.2 spg).

Jazz Johnson (16.3 ppg) and Lindsey Drew (11.0 ppg) are the other two double-digit scorers for Nevada.

In two games since his return from a sore shoulder, Johnson has averaged 16 points on 50.0 percent shooting in that span. He is second in the conference in total 3-point field goals with 78.

Johnson is shooting 41.3 percent from the floor with a 42.6 3-point percentage. 60 percent of his shots are from 3-point range.

Drew is hitting 47.6 percent of his shots, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range. He leads the team in rebounds (6.7 rpg), assists (4.3 apg) and steals (1.3 spg).

Projected Starters:

Nevada Wolf Pack

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG%
G 14 Lindsey Drew Sr. 6-5 11.1 6.6 4.1 .479
G 22 Jazz Johnson Sr. 5-10 15.9 3.3 2 .414
G 2 Jalen Harris Jr. 6-5 21.8 6.3 3.9 .454
F 1 Robby Robinson Soph. 6-8 2.7 5 0.9 .523
F 12 Johncarlos Reyes Sr. 6-10 4.7 4.2 0.6 .556

New Mexico Lobos

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG
FG%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG
FG%
G 5 JaQuan Lyle Sr. 6-5 15.6 4.1 4.6 .439
G 0 Zane Martin Jr. 6-4 11.1 2.7 3.1 .429
G 2 Vance Jackson Jr. 6-9 9.5 4.8 1.3 .410
F 10 Makuach Maluach Jr. 6-7 9.6 4.1 1.1 .487
F 1 Corey Manigault Sr. 6-9 12.9 5 0.8 .569

Additional Links:

Nevada Game Notes: https://go.aws/2OWRl1J

New Mexico Game Notes: https://go.aws/2wlxVwU

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/2vGG1jo

The Wolf Pack look to move into second place in the conference.
Nevada Game Notes