The final game of 2021 wasn’t a good one for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
In a replacement contest for both teams, the sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks stormed past Nevada 88-61 on Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
Both the Jayhawks and Wolf Pack, both of whom were originally slated to play different opponents before scheduling Wednesday’s replacement game, were both on five-game win streaks. Wednesday’s loss drops Nevada to 6-5 — including 0-4 in Quad 1 or 2 games — heading into Mountain West play; Kansas improves to 10-1 overall with one additional non-conference game remaining.
Kansas has now won 24 straight non-conference games at Allen Fieldhouse, making them 138-5 all-time under Bill Self in non-conference affairs.
The Jayhawks, only up by 12 at halftime after forcing 16 first-half Pack turnovers, exploded in the second-half for 49 points and outscored the Pack by 15, despite forcing just five second-half turnovers. Kansas finished with 46 total points in the paint (compared to just 14 for Nevada) and shot over 50.0 percent for the sixth time this season.
Nevada shot 37.5 percent — its second-straight game finishing with below a 38.0 field goal percentage. It also shot just 29.6 percent from distance, the Pack’s lowest since it shot just 4-of-15 from distance against San Diego on Nov. 12.
The Wolf Pack committed a season-high 21 turnovers.
Desmond Cambridge and Grant Sherfield combined for 32 of Nevada’s 61 points.
Sherfield, the only player to average at least 20.0 points and 6.5 assists per game, had 16 points and four assists — ending his five-game streak of 23-plus points. Kansas did a good job throwing multiple defenders — with length — at Sherfield, though he shot 7-of-17 from the floor.
Cambridge also tallied 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting — shooting 13 3-point attempts (with just four makes) — adding four of Nevada’s five blocks, a season high for Cambridge. They were the only other Pack scorers in double figures. Will Baker and Kenan Blackshear had eight points apiece; Warren Washington added seven with a team-high six rebounds.
Kansas, who ranked No. 3 in the nation in offense per KenPom, shot 53.8 percent, including 38.9 percent from 3-point range. It had four double-digit scorers.
Christian Braun led the team with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting with four boards, two blocks — a team-high — and two steals. Ochai Agbaji, the team’s leading scorer (22.0 ppg) entering Wednesday, had 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds and a team-most four steals.
DaJuan Harris tallied 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Devin McCormack added 14 points with six rebounds, shooting 6-for-10 from the floor.
Kansas tallied the game’s first eight points. Braun’s steal-and-score gave Kansas the early 12-3 lead; the Wolf Pack had four fouls and four turnovers in the first 3:33.
Braun tallied 11 of Kansas’ first 19 points. Sherfield’s 3-pointer followed by Cambridge’s contested jumper cut the lead to 19-13 with 12:20 left in the first half, with Sherfield and Cambridge combined for all 13 of those points.
Agbaji’s fastbreak layup made it 31-18 with 5:32 remaining, though Sherfield’s floater cut it to six. Both teams had 25 combined turnovers (Nevada -15, Kansas - 10) with 2:13 left in the first half.
Back-to-back triples from Braun and Martin followed by Agbaji’s windmill slam gave the Jayhawks all the momentum heading into halftime ahead 39-27. Kansas shot 57.1 percent from the floor, including 4-of-7 from distance; Nevada made just 11 of their 27 field goals — nearly half (5) coming from 3-point range.
Cambridge (13) and Sherfield (9) combined for 21 of Nevada’s 27 points.
Kansas didn’t look back.
Harris’ three-point play made it 46-31. The Jayhawks opened the floodgates. Two consecutive Agbaji fastbreak slams increased the Jayhawk advantage to 58-36 with 14:44 remaining — prompting a Wolf Pack timeout.
Blackshear’s triple — which made it 61-39 — ended a scoreless Wolf Pack streak that lasted three minutes, 53 seconds. Cambridge’s steal followed by Washington’s two-handed slam cut it to 65-47 with 9:12 left.
The Pack did not have much steam thereafter. Though Will Baker’s above-the-break triple cut it to 16, the Jayhawks re-upped it to 27 with under five minutes remaining in a blink of an eye. Both teams subbed a majority of their starters out by the three-minute mark — as Kansas would earn its sixth-straight victory of the season.
Next up: Nevada will host New Mexico, its first Mountain West opponent, on New Year’s Day at 6 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1.