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Nevada drops close contest to San Diego State 65-60

Derrick Tuskan || San Diego State Athletic Department

A late run helped the San Diego State Aztecs seal a 65-60 victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack Saturday in Viejas Arena in San Diego, Calif. It tied Nevada’s lowest scoring output of the season, when it notched 60 in a 25-point defeat against San Francisco on Dec. 2.

Despite San Diego State leading for 34:10 of the 40 total minutes, the game was relatively tight throughout, with its largest lead reaching just seven points.

Nevada led for just 58 seconds in the entire game — its largest coming with over two minutes remaining at 60-58. SDSU’s Jordan Schakel’s quick shooting stroke led to a 3-pointer off a pindown, followed by two clutch free throws from Nathan Mensah to give the Aztecs a 63-60 lead with 1:29 to go.

SDSU switched the lengthy Mensah, a 6-foot-10 forward, on Nevada star guard Grant Sherfield after a high on-ball screen during Nevada’s final offensive possession. Sherfield created enough space with a in-and-out crossover followed by a step back, hoisting an above the break 3-pointer that clanked off the rim and traveled out-of-bounds with four seconds remaining.

Senior forward Matt Mitchell iced the victory with two game-clinching free throws in the waning moments. Nevada went the final 2:16 without scoring as SDSU capped-off the performance on a 7-0 run.

Nevada shot 36.8 percent from the floor and 35.0 percent from deep.

Sherfield totaled a team-high 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting — his third straight 20-point performance. Over that span, he’s averaging 23.3 points on 44.7 percent shooting. Sherfield’s sidekick, Desmond Cambridge, tallied 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 4-of-6 from deep.

Cambridge and Sherfield both hauled-in a season-best five rebounds. Sherfield also posted team-highs in assists (5) and steals (2).

San Diego State shot 40.8 percent on the game and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, including 19-of-22 (86.4 percent) from the charity stripe.

Mitchell, a preseason All-Mountain West honoree, notched his first double-double of the season and the second of his career in the winning effort. He led the Aztecs with a team-high 20 points — 18 coming in the second half — on 5-of-12 shooting and hauled-in a team-most 10 rebounds.

Mensah totaled 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes. Trey Pulliam tallied a season-high 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

The Aztecs utilized their brute size and took control inside the painted area throughout the contest. They outscored the Pack 26-16 inside the painted area and out-rebounded their counterpart 35-31.

Thursday’s loss drops Nevada to 8-4 and 3-2 in the Mountain West. San Diego State moves to 8-2 with a 2-1 conference record.

Cambridge’s fastbreak corner 3-point basket, Nevada’s first field goal of the game, trimmed the early SDSU lead to 6-5.

The Aztecs netted their first eight shots, while Nevada made five of their first seven. Their first miss came with 12:36 remaining in the opening half, up 20-14. Both teams went on a cold spell: San Diego State missed its next nine attempts while Nevada missed nine of its next 10.

Schakel’s contested layup put SDSU up 27-20. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Sherfield cut the lead to 30-28 with :55 seconds remaining in the half.

San Diego State entered halftime with the 32-28 lead, totaling 16 of its points in the paint (compared to Nevada’s four paint points). It shot 46.2 percent — 37.5 percent from deep — while Nevada shot just 34.5 percent.

Two quick Wolf Pack baskets — including a Cambridge 3-pointer — gave the Pack their first lead of the game at 33-32. Aztec true freshman Lamont Butler awarded them a 48-44 advantage with 11:41 remaining.

Nevada cut it to 53-49 with 7:44 remaining. Pulliam extended it to 58-51, but Nevada ensued with a 9-0 run with just over two minutes remaining. It would be the final Pack run on the evening, as the Aztecs closed on a 7-0 run to seal the tight victory.

Up next:

The two foes will square for their season-series finale Saturday at 6 p.m. PST on CBS Sports Network.