The Nevada men’s basketball team battled high emotions in a hostile environment and came away with an 88-74 victory over the New Mexico Lobos.
Emotions were high as soon as Nevada stepped on the floor against New Mexico in The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
Nevada head coach Steve Alford and assistant coach Craig Neal made their first returns to the historic arena since departing from the university. Alford was the head coach at New Mexico from 2007-13 and won six Mountain West championships in his career. Neal assisted Alford all six seasons and took over as head coach after Alford left for UCLA in 2013. Neal coached the Lobos for four years and won the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship in 2014.
Both coaches received loud boos from the rowdy crowd pregame.
The answer? Boos from the crowd as Steve Alford and Craig Neal make their return to the Pit. (and one “Lobos never forget” sign that mentions Harvard) pic.twitter.com/YapDORu0cw— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) February 19, 2020
After player intros, announcement of head coach Steve Alford = boos.— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) February 19, 2020
Then a longer than normal pause to let that happen, and the announcement of Associate Head Coach Craig Neal = Louder boos. pic.twitter.com/Tdo73qpwZd
Tuesday’s win improves Nevada to 17-10 with a 10-5 conference record on the season. The Pack are tied with Utah State for second in the Mountain West standings.
Nevada is 3-7 (.300) on the road this season. New Mexico (17-11, 6-9) drops to 14-3 (.824) at home, with all three of its home losses coming in its last four home contests.
New Mexico has dropped eight of its last ten games.
The Lobos mixed in multiple zone defenses to go along with a full court pressure ran under head coach Paul Weir. New Mexico’s defensive adjustments did not bother Nevada’s offensive rhythm. The Wolf Pack shot 50 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range.
Nevada had four double-digit scorers. Jalen Harris led Nevada with 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting with a team-high nine rebounds. Harris has totaled double-digit scoring in 23 consecutive games, averaging 23.2 points in that span. The 6-foot-5 guard sports a conference-best 26.1 points in 15 conference games.
Lindsey Drew added 14 points with six rebounds and four assists. He became the first player in school history to total 900 career points, 600 career rebounds and 500 career assists.
Jazz Johnson eclipsed a milestone by totaling 1,500 career collegiate points. The sharpshooter finished with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor and 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Zane Meeks tallied 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc off the bench.
Nevada won the rebounding battle 42-35. The Pack did a good job capitalizing off New Mexico’s miscues with 20 points off 11 Lobo turnovers.
The Pack mixed in a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 zone throughout the contest. The Lobos shot 38.8 percent — their third worst shooting performance on the season — and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Back-to-back layups from Harris put Nevada ahead 9-5 early in the game. A pair of 3-point baskets from Lyle and Jackson tied the contest at 14 with 11:23 remaining, prompting a Wolf Pack timeout.
Two consecutive baskets from Harris put Nevada ahead 19-14. Harris had 13 of Nevada’s first 19 points. The Lobos responded with two 3-pointers, tying the contest at 20.
Drew’s layup gave the Wolf Pack a 32-28 advantage with 5:29 remaining. Drew’s 3-pointer extended the margin to 43-33 with 2:04 to go in the half.
The Pack held a 44-35 halftime lead. Nevada shot 48.3 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from deep. The Lobos shot 34.4 percent with a 35.3 3-point percentage in the opening half.
Six of New Mexico’s 11 made field goals came from beyond the arc in the first half.
Johnson’s 3-pointer gave Nevada 49-39 lead to begin the final half. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Meeks and Drew extended the Pack’s advantage to 58-45 with 15:03 remaining.
New Mexico capped-off its 8-0 run with an alley-oop dunk from Makuach Maluach, trimming the Pack’s lead to 63-55.
Nevada responded with a 13-4 run to extend its lead to 72-57. New Mexico capitalized with a 12-4 run capped-off by a 3-pointer from Keith McGee. Johnsons’ two-straight baskets silenced the New Mexico crowd.
New Mexico was unable to cut the lead fewer than 13 points, as Nevada walked away with its second-straight road win.
The Wolf Pack return home to host Fresno State (9-17, 5-10) Saturday. Tip off will be at 7 p.m. PST at Lawlor Events Center.