A late Nevada Wolf Pack rally fueled their 81-72 victory over the San Jose State Spartans on Tuesday, giving Nevada its first two-game win streak since it rattled off five straight from Nov. 23 to Dec. 18.
In the first of a back-to-back against one another, the two programs jostled back-and-forth for the lead most of the second half after SJSU — who entered 0-12 in MWC play — controlled most of the game’s first 20 minutes. Nevada trailed by just one — 65-64 — with 6:25 remaining.
The Pack put together five straight points before Alvaro Cardenas’ contested corner 3-pointer — moments before the shot clock expired — re-cut it to one with 4:26 remaining. Nevada center Will Baker, who finished with a team-high 23 points, breached the Spartan defense, sinking each of the team’s next four buckets. It marked a self 8-2 run — putting it up seven with 34 seconds remaining, putting the nail in the coffin for its hard-fought victory.
Nevada netted five of its final six attempts and all five of its free-throw attempts over that final 6:25 span — also holding SJSU to 3-9 shooting and 2-of-5 from 3-point range in that span.
The Spartans have now lost 17 consecutive conference games, dating back to last season, and its 10th loss to the Pack over their last 11 meetings. Nevada now moves to 11-13 and 5-8 in MWC play; SJSU falls to 7-18 without a victory in 13 conference affairs.
The Wolf Pack shot 56.1 percent and 55.6 percent from 3-point range (5-9) with 50 points (!) in the paint, finishing a plus-26 in that department.
Baker was at the forefront of its interior dominance, notching his second 20-point performance of the season on 11-of-13 shooting. Desmond Cambridge posted 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, racking up a team-high seven boards with four assists and a pair of steals.
Grant Sherfield had 21 points while dishing out a team-most eight assists, knocking down eight of his 17 shot attempts.
The Spartans, who tops the Mountain West in 3-point makes per game (9.3), canned 14 of their 32 3-pointers (43.8 percent) on the night, shooting 44.1 percent overall.
Omari Moore had 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, adding six rebounds, four assists and a steal. Tibet Gorener had 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting from distance; Cardenas followed with 11 points and three 3s, tying Moore with a team-high four assists plus a team-high two steals.
Moore’s 3-pointer gave SJSU the 13-10 advantage with 14:42 remaining in the first half. Gorener’s third triple of the half followed by Kuath’s layup put SJSU ahead 23-16.
SJSU Trey Anderson’s make from distance gave them the nine-point lead — 28-19 — with 6:26 remaining in the opening half, prompting a Wolf Pack timeout. Nevadad responded with an 8-0 run — capped by Tre Coleman’s layup — trimming the deficit to one.
SJSU led 43-39 at halftime, knocking down 50.0 percent of their shots and was 9-of-18 (50.0 percent) from distance. The Wolf Pack shot 53.6 percent; Cambridge accounted for all four of its 3-point makes (on five attempts) as well.
They were a minus-11 on the glass in the first half, however, securing just nine rebounds (seven defensive); for perspective, SJSU racked up nine offensive rebounds alone in the opening half (though it had just six second-chance points).
Sherfield’s contested layup put Nevada ahead 49-48 with over 14 minutes left in regulation. Coleman’s 3-pointer extended its lead to 58-52 with 10:52 to go. SJSU ensued with a 10-2 run — capped by a pair of 3s from Moore and Gorener — to take the 62-60 lead.
But Kenan Blackshear’s three-point play conversion gave Nevada the 69-65 lead with under five minutes remaining. Baker recorded eight of his 23 over a 3:52 span, icing Nevada’s fourth conference win of the season and its first two game win streak in nearly two months.
Next up: Nevada and San Jose State will run it back again Thursday in the second of its home-road back-to-back. Get your coffee ready — tip off will be at 9 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.