Despite an robust second-half start, the Nevada Wolf Pack’s comeback effort fell just short, suffering a 75-68 defeat to the San Diego Toreros on Friday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.
With physical point-of-attack defense and relentless rim pressure offensively from their foe, the Pack struggled finding any first half groove on either end — digging a 16-point halftime hole after trailing by 19 at one point in the half.
Nevada head coach Steve Alford lamented that since they trailed by 16 at halftime, they had to cut the game into five separate four-minute segments.
“No so much of a message of fired up, but just saying, ‘Look, we’re down 16. There is no 16-point shot, we’ve got five four-minute games. We’ve got to win all five four-minute games.’” Alford said postgame, when asked about what his message was at halftime.
Nevada began the second half a 15-0 run, making eight of its first 14 shots and eventually tied it at 51 with 12:12 left. San Diego’s Vladimir Pinchuk, who finished with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, put it ahead and San Diego didn’t look back; The Toreros didn’t relinquish their lead for the remainder of the contest.
“We won the first two coming out. We lost the third one and then we won the fourth one,” Alford said. “It came down to that fifth four-minute game where we had to win it by six or more and we lost it. We had it. We were right there. We had a chance, but when you’re down 16, you can’t win three of the five four-minute games. You’ve got to win five of the five.
“I thought [San Diego] did a good job of taking the hit in the second half and kind of re-establishing,” he said. “That’s a sign of a good, experienced team.”
Nevada missed three of its final four shots and eight of its final 11, failing to cut it to a one-possession down the stretch. In total, it shot 42.9 percent, 26.7 percent (4-15) from 3-point range and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the free throw line.
Warren Washington recorded his first double-double of the season, finishing with 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds. Will Baker tallied 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Grant Sherfield tallied 13 points on a dismal 3-of-13 shooting and going 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Tre Coleman added 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting with two triples, adding six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Desmond Cambridge, who had a season-high 22 points in Tuesday’s 91-76 victory over Eastern Washington, was held to just five points on 2-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-7 from distance.
AJ Bramah (still in concussion protocol), who had 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds in 23 minutes on Tuesday, and K.J Hymes (ankle) missed Friday’s game.
San Diego shot 49.2 percent, 38.5 percent from beyond the arc and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe.
Jase Townsend had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor. Terrell Brown-Soares tallied 16 points with eight rebounds and a career-high seven blocks. Marcellus Earlington had 10 points with five boards — netting five of his 10 attempts.
San Diego featured astonishing rim pressure — especially in the opening half — recording 40 of its 75 points in the paint. San Diego finished 20-of-34 (58.8 percent) inside the painted area and 66.7 percent (14-21) at the rim.
“The first half, we gave up a lot of stuff in the paint,” Alford said. “I thought, to a good shooting team, to hold [San Diego] to five 3s — that’s good. But we gave up so much in the paint for as big as we are.
“We gave up 40 points in the paint. That’s insane — so we’ve got to figure that piece out very quickly before we go on the road.”
Baker and Coleman sunk Nevada’s first two buckets — both triples. Townsend’s 3-pointer gave San Diego the 12-8 lead. Washington’s two-handed slam prompted a San Diego timeout, putting Nevada ahead 20-19 with 9:58 left in the first half.
Pinchuk’s layup gave San Diego the 29-25 advantage. Berger’s layup put the Pack ahead 34-25 with 5:35 left.
The Toreros’ 15-7 run to close the first half put them ahead 48-32. Nevada shot just 43.3 percent and 50 percent (on four attempts) from beyond the arc. San Diego shot 57.6 percent and 33.3 percent (3-9) from deep.
San Diego had 33 points in the paints in the opening half — which outscored Nevada outright.
The Wolf Pack opened the second half on an 15-0 run and 20-4 run dating back to 2:05 left in the first half. It included Cambridge’s first points of the game: An alley-oop slam (assisted by the 7-footer Baker! Playmaking big men are here and in full force!).
Washington’s two straight slams followed by Cambridge’s cut the once 19-point deficit to 48-47. San Diego went scoreless in the first 6:20 before T.J. Berger’s corner 3-pointer made it 51-47.
Earlington’s jumper extended the San Diego lead to 60-53 with 8:54 remaining. His step-back widened it to double digits — 68-57 — with five minutes to go. Coleman’s triple cut the deficit to six, 70-64, with 2:50 left.
Sherfield’s 3-point attempt with 44 seconds left rimmed out with Townsend securing the rebound. Monroe nailed both free throws, making it 72-66 with 33 seconds to go. Coleman’s tip-in cut it to four, but Townsend’s free-throw followed by Cambridge’s miss with 16 seconds left all but iced the game.
Next up: The Pack travel to California to take on Santa Clara on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. PST. Nevada will play five straight away from Lawlor Events Center before returning home to play Pepperdine on Nov. 30.