Jalen Harris’ career night fueled Nevada’s 88-54 victory over the Air Force Falcons (9-14, 3-8) Tuesday.
Harris scored a career-high 38 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. He has totaled three consecutive 30-point games and five on the season. Harris is the first player in school history to record three consecutive 30-point games.
The 6-foot-5 junior guard has tallied double-digit scoring in 20 consecutive games, averaging 22.2 points on 47.7 percent shooting in that span. He is averaging a conference-best 25.2 points in 12 conference games.
“I’ve just been confident,” Harris said. “My teammates have been doing a good job in finding me. My coaches have been doing a good job putting me in these opportunities to make plays. … I’m just trying to do whatever I need to do to help us win.
Nevada head coach Steve Alford has really been impressed with Harris’ growth as a finisher throughout the year.
“Where he’s really grown is how he drives the basketball,” he said. “I thought early in the season, he wasn’t a very good finisher. I think he’s done a tremendous job at being a good closer at the rim.”
Tuesday’s win snaps Nevada’s two-game losing skid, improving its record to 14-10 record with a 7-5 conference record. The Pack have won 30 of their last 32 conference home games, including 18 straight. They have sole possession of fifth place in the conference standings.
Air Force mixed in a zone with its man-to-man defense throughout the game. In response, the Wolf Pack shot 50.8 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep.
Nevada had three double-digit scorers. Nisré Zouzoua, who started his second consecutive game in-place of Jazz Johnson (right shoulder soreness), tallied 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting. K.J. Hymes added 10 points with five rebounds off the bench.
Alford gave status on Johnson’s injury.
“We’re almost at a week [until his return],” Alford said. “Hopefully the shoulder will respond well and we’ll continue to talk to doctors as they look at him. I know he felt better today than the other two days … he’s questionable for Saturday.”
Lindsey Drew — who had 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting with 6 rebounds — captured 900 career points and 600 career rebounds in his collegiate career.
“It definitely feels good,” Drew said. “In the summer, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. I put my blood, sweat and tears out there on the court for Nevada.”
The Pack were physical on the boards, finishing with a plus-20 margin. The Pack out-rebounded the Falcons 10-6 on the offensive glass. They are 12-1 (.923) on the season when out-rebounding their opponent.
Nevada’s defense surrendered a season-low 54 points. The Falcons shot 32.8 percent from the floor. Air Force — who entered Tuesday as the second-best 3-point shooting team in the conference (.386) — netted just seven 3-pointers on 28 attempts.
Lavelle Scottie led the Falcons with 19 points on 8-of-19 shooting. He was their only double-digit scorer.
Harris’ jumper gave Nevada an early 11-5 lead with 14:24 remaining. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Harris extended the Pack’s advantage to 21-9, prompting a Falcon timeout. Harris had 13 of Nevada’s first 21 points.
Zouzoua extended Nevada’s lead to 31-11 with 7:48 to go in the first half after two consecutive baskets.
The Falcons responded with an 8-1 run — capped-off by a running hook shot from Scottie to cut Nevada’s lead to 32-19, prompting a Wolf Pack timeout.
Nevada went on a run of its own — closing the half on a 12-3 run — capped-off by a layup from Johncarlos Reyes in the final seconds of the half. The Pack doubled the Falcons’ halftime score entering with a 44-22 lead. Nevada shot 53.1 percent in the first half compared to AFA’s 28.1 percent.
Nevada opened the final half on a 12-3 run. Harris’ 3-pointer extended the lead to 64-33 with 11:47 remaining.
The onslaught continued. Zouzoua’s 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock extended Nevada’s advantage to 77-40. Zane Meeks’ layup put Nevada ahead 84-48 with 4:27 remaining. The Falcons were not able to trim it below 23 points in the remainder of the contest.
The Wolf Pack finish their two-game homestand with San Jose State (7-16, 3-8) on Saturday night. Tip off will be at 4 p.m. PST. The Spartans defeated Nevada 70-68 in their first meeting on the season.
Death, taxes, Jalen Harris in double-figure scoring.— Nevada Basketball (@NevadaHoops) February 5, 2020
He hits back-to-back threes for his 20th straight game with at least 10 points! We've opened up the game a bit here with an 8-0 run.#BattleBorn pic.twitter.com/p8eLjYXnFH