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Nevada Basketball escapes with 78-76 win over Fresno State

The Wolf Pack move to 11-5 in conference play with Saturday’s victory.

Nevada v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Nevada pulled away late in a 78-76 thriller over Fresno State (10-18, 6-11) on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.

Trailing 71-62 with 6:45 left, Nevada put together one of its best stretches of the season. The Wolf Pack coasted to a 16-2 run to clinch the win and bring the roaring 9,155 fans to their feet.

Fresno State battled back, cutting the lead to 78-76 with under a minute remaining after a three-point play from New Williams. Jalen Harris missed a fadeaway jumper with 30 seconds on Nevada’s final possessio, giving Fresno State the final shot.

Williams missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal the victory for Nevada. Saturday’s win improves Nevada to 18-10 with a 11-5 conference record. The Wolf Pack have won five-straight games, tying their longest win streak on the season.

Despite the close win, Nevada head coach Steve Alford was not impressed with his team’s performance.

“We were lucky,” Alford said post-game. “I did not like our demeanor. I did not like our energy … we really looked like a team that came back off the road after two big road wins and said ‘hey, we are at home, so we are going to win.’ and we played that way until the last 10 possessions.”

Nevada has won 33 of its last 35 conference home contests, including 20 straight. The Pack are 12-2 (.857) at home this season. They are tied with Utah State for second place in the Mountain West standings.

The Bulldogs are now 1-5 (.167) in games decided by three or fewer points on the season.

Nevada shot 47.5 percent from the floor and 42.3 percent from 3-point range.

The Pack had four double-digit scorers. Harris led Nevada with 20 points on 7-of-20 shooting. He has tallied double-digit scoring in 24 consecutive games, averaging 23 points in that span.

Nisré Zouzoua was an instant spark off the bench, tallying 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 5-of-7 shooting from deep.

“Nisré was terrific,” Alford said. “Not only his point production off the bench, but I thought he was easily our best defender in the guard spot tonight.”

Lindsey Drew and Jazz Johnson had 15 points apiece. Johnson shot 5-of-11 — including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc — with a team-high four assists. Drew shot 5-of-11 from the floor with six rebounds and four steals, both team highs.

Nevada outrebounded Fresno State 35-33. The Pack are now 16-2 (.889) when out-rebounding their opponent this season.

Fresno State shot 44.6 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range. Alford was not impressed with how his team defended.

“We did not guard very well,” he said. “We’ve got to be a lot better down the stretch than we were tonight on the defensive end.

“We’re a top-10 team in the country in defending the 3-point line … for 27 games, not a lot of teams have defended the 3-point line like we have defended it this year. Tonight, we gave up 35 attempts, which is way too many. We gave up 14 makes, and maybe one other team has made that many threes against us.”

Niven Hart led the Bulldogs with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Jarred Hyder added 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting from deep.

Fresno State made five of its first six shots to start the game. Williams’ layup gave the Bulldogs an early 13-2 lead, prompting a Nevada timeout.

Zouzoua’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 20-19 — capping-off a 13-2 run — with 11:02 remaining.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Johnson and Zouzoua gave Nevada a 25-24 lead, its first lead of the contest. Fresno State tied the contest at 33 with 3:03 remaining after an Anthony Holland tip-in. The two foes traded baskets for the remainder of the half.

Fresno State held a 43-42 lead at halftime. The Pack shot 50 percent and 42.9 percent from 3-point range in the half. Fresno State shot 42.4 percent and 38.1 percent from deep.

Harris’ steal-and-score gave Nevada a 48-46 lead with 16:04 to go in the half. The Bulldogs re-took the lead after a Hart 3-pointer.

Robinson’s dunk gave Fresno State a 62-57 advantage. Noah Blackwell’s 3-pointer increased the lead to 69-60 with 7:32 remaining.

The Wolf Pack ultimately battled back with a dominant performance on both ends of the floor to earn their 12th home win on the season.

Nevada hits the road to take on the Wyoming Cowboys (7-21, 2-14) Tuesday in Laramie, Wyo. Tip off will be at 6 p.m. PST on AT&T SportsNet. The Wolf Pack have won their last two road games, but are 3-7 (.300) on the road this season.

Nevada moves to 18-10 on the season.