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Nevada Basketball: Cold shooting bites Pack late, falling 73-70 to San Francisco

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack’s cold second-half shooting caught up to them late, dropping their third-straight, 73-70, to San Francisco on Thursday in the War Memorial at the Sobrato Center in San Francisco, Calif.

Nevada, who led by 16 in the first half and 10 at the intermission, shot just 37 percent in the second-half — clanking all nine of its 3-point attempts and scoring just 24 second-half points. The Pack missed five of their final six attempts in the last two minutes, including four straight in the final minute.

Grant Sherfield’s potential game-tying floater rimmed out with 24 seconds left, though Dons forward Josh Kunen missed the front end of his one-and-one — gifting the Wolf Pack another opportunity with 13 seconds remaining.

Nevada guard Desmond Cambridge air-balled a potential game-tying triple with 3.3 seconds left. USF’s Gabe Stefanini, who finished with a game-high 28 points, split the pair of free throws — but one last 3-pointer from center Will Baker was blocked at the end of regulation.

The Pack have now lost three straight regular season games for the first time since Feb. of 2015, dropping to 1-3 on the year — all three of the losses coming at the hands of West Coast Conference programs. USF moves to 5-0, its first five-game winning streak since it rattled off seven straight to begin the 2019-20 season.

Despite its cold shooting late, Nevada still shot 49.1 percent and 35.3 percent from 3-point range.

Baker — who scored 18 of its first 27 points, including 16 straight in a 2:02 span in the first half — finished with a career-high 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Cambridge tallied 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with a team-high two steals. Washington tallied 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and the Pack’s lone block. A.J. Bramah had 11 points with a team-high seven rebounds.

Sherfield, the Mountain West preseason player of the year, finished with just eight points while dishing out a team-high seven assists.

Stefanini’s 28 points marked his ninth career 20-point performance and was five shy of tying his career-high set in the 2018-19 season, when he was Columbia. He knocked down 10-of-17, including five 3-pointers (on 12 attempts) with four rebounds.

Jamaree Bouyea, who led the team in scoring (17.8 ppg) entering Thursday, followed with 22 points on 8-of-21 shooting with five 3-pointers as well (on 14 attempts). Yauhen Massalski added 10 points with six boards on 5-of-10 shooting.

Nevada was much improved defensively on Thursday, holding the Dons to 43.8 percent shooting, including 34.3 percent from beyond the arc with a season-low 20 points in the paint.

Sherfield’s 3-pointer rewarded the Pack with an early 7-6 lead. Baker accounted 18 of Nevada’s first 27 points, two shy of tying his previous career high of 20 set while he was still at Texas.

Baker’s lightning quick 18 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting included 16 straight, outscoring the Dons by himself until the 11:19 mark in the opening half. Bouyea’s back-to-back 3-pointers cut the lead to 34-23 with 5:55 remaining before halftime.

Cambridge’s corner triple increased the Pack’s advantage to 41-25, their largest lead of the night. Stefanini — who had 17 first-half points of his own — cut the deficit to 46-36 with 13 seconds left in the half, as that would be the score entering the break.

Nevada had a very efficient first-half offensively, shooting 60.0 percent from the floor and 6-of-8 (75.0 percent) from 3-point range. San Francisco had an identical 40.0 field goal and 3-point percentage.

San Francisco opened the second half with 11 straight points in the first 2:39 — capped by Massalski’s layup — to take the 47-46 lead, its first lead since 14:53 in the first half when it led 8-6.

Washington’s dunk followed by Baker’s alley-oop slam from Sherfield — giving him 22 points — rewarded Nevada the 50-47 advantage. Bramah’s hook shot made it 58-53 with 12:37 left.

Bouyea’s seven straight points gave USF the 65-62 lead with 5:49 remaining. USF outscored the Pack 29-16 in the first 15:28 out of halftime.

Two massive mid-range shots from Cambridge gave Nevada the 68-67 lead with 2:45 lead. After USF re-captured the lead, the Pack stole it right back with AJ Bramah’s tip-in to give it the 70-69 lead — ultimately their final basket of the game.

Bouyea’s go-ahead 3-pointer gave the Dons a 72-70 lead with 33 seconds remaining, forcing Nevada to burn its third timeout. Two solid looks awarded to Sherfield and Cambridge didn’t fall for the Pack as San Francisco earned its fifth-straight victory — all of which have came at home.

Next up: Nevada heads to Sioux Falls, S.D., for three games in the Crossover Classic: Beginning with South Dakota State on Monday. Tip-off will be at 4 p.m. PT.