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Nevada squeaks past Loyola Marymount 68-63, wins fifth straight

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal Andy Barron/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Make that five straight!

The Nevada Wolf Pack squeaked past the Loyola Marymount Lions 68-63 Saturday at Lawlor Events Center — Nevada’s first five-game win streak since Feb. of 2020.

It came to the final lap, however. A pair of Eli Scott free throws tied it at 63 with 1:39 left. Both Nevada’s Grant Sherfield and LMU’s Cam Shelton missed their shots, but Will Baker’s emphatic two-handed slam from Daniel Foster gave Nevada the lead with 39 seconds remaining. Kenan Blackshear’s free throws widened it to 67-63 with 33 seconds remaining.

Pack forward Tre Coleman blocked Scott’s shot on LMU’s ensuing possession. Warren Washington split the pair of attempts at the charity stripe — upping it to 68-63 — but Scott’s missed shot all but concluded the thrilling Saturday evening contest.

In its five consecutive victories, Nevada’s held each opponent to below 70 points and sub-38.0 percent shooting.

Despite the victory, the Wolf Pack shot a season-low 35.8 percent with a 30.0 3-point percentage, though it sunk 24-of-29 from the free-throw line (82.8 percent), one off a season most.

Grant Sherfield had a team-high 24 points — his fourth-straight 20-point performance — on 6-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-6 from distance and 9-of-10 at the free-throw line. The 6-foot-2 guard had four assists and two steals. All but four of Sherfield’s points came in the second half.

Will Baker tallied 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting with six rebounds. Cambridge, who played in just 23 minutes after dealing with foul trouble, finished with 10 points, snapping his four-game streak of 20-plus points. He went 4-for-12 from the floor with four rebounds and two steals.

Loyola Marymount shot 37.5 percent, including 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Keli Leaupepe tallied a season-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with a career-high five 3-pointers (on seven attempts). His 20 points was the most since he had 23 in the West Coast Conference tournament on March 5, 2020.

Dameane Douglas had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, hauling down a team-high nine boards with one block and one steal. Eli Scott had 12 points on just 3-of-13 shooting, though he filled the stat sheet with seven rebounds, a team-high six assists and two steals.

Despite the size disadvantage (LMU has nobody over 6-foot-9), the Lions out-rebounded Nevada 40-34 — the second time it’s been out-rebounded in a win this season.

Wednesday marked the return of former Nevada head coach and longtime assistant coach David Carter, who’s in his second season as an assistant with Loyola Marymount. Carter, who spent six seasons as the Pack’s head coach, was fired after the 2014-15 season.

Nevada improves to 6-4 — including 2-3 against WCC opponents — while LMU drops to 6-5 with its first two-game skid of the 2021-22 campaign.

Scott’s left-handed layup over Washington gave the Lions the early 7-4 advantage. Nevada’s first lead came off Cambridge’s 3-pointer with 15:18 in the half, making it 11-10. His second 3-pointer of the half gave it the 20-17 lead.

K.J. Hymes’ jumper upped the Pack advantage to 28-20 lead with 4:41 left in the first half. Baker’s triple widened it to 35-26, prompting a Lion timeout with just under a minute left.

Nevada entered halftime up seven, 35-28. Neither team was very efficient. The Pack shot 40.7 percent from the floor, 37.5 percent (3-8) from 3-point range and 83.3 percent (10-12) from the free throw line; Loyola Marymount sported a lowly 29.6 field goal percentage, including 25 percent (3-12) from deep and 75 percent from the charity stripe.

Sherfield’s shot-clock beating 3-pointer made it 46-37 with 14:42 remaining. Cam Shelton’s layup cut it to three, but Sherfield’s make from distance increased it to 52-46.

A 7-0 Lions run gave them the 53-52 lead with 7:29 remaining — their first since leading 10-8 — but Sherfield’s third triple of the evening re-gave Nevada the lead,

Both teams traded leads. Cambridge’s right-handed hook — his first make since 9:46 in the first half — gave Nevada the 59-56 lead.

The Lions missed five of their last six shots, including their last three in the final 1:06 — rewarding the Pack their fifth straight victory of the season.

Next up: The Wolf Pack close their three-game homestand with Grand Canyon on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. PT.