Despite the combination of Desmond Cambridge’s career night with a late Wolf Pack run, the Colorado State Rams were able to hold off Nevada 82-72 Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.
Nevada, who’s now concluded a four-game-in-seven-day stretch, trailed by as much as 18 with over 12 minutes remaining, but timely baskets — spearheaded by Cambridge, who posted a career-high 36 points on a near-perfect 13-of-15 shooting with seven 3-pointers — helped slice the led to eight with 3:45 remaining.
The Wolf Pack were within even six with 44 seconds remaining, but the late surge wasn’t enough to climb atop the hill, dropping their sixth straight outing.
From the opening tip, Colorado State’s Roddy looked more than worthy of being in consideration for the conference’s player of the year award — an honor that Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson, Wyoming Graham Ike and Utah State’s Justin Bean are also grappling for, among others — but I digress.
Nevertheless, the 6-foot-6 wing had 29 points — 19 in the first half — on 11-of-14 shooting and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Kendle Moore pitched in with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 4-of-7 from 3-point range, adding four rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Nevada guard Grant Sherfield returned from a three-game absence due to a foot infection. But Sherfield, who entered Tuesday averaging 18.3 points and 6.2 assists per game, still appeared hindered by his lingering foot injury — never looking like his dominant self.
“I appreciate Grant. He’s nowhere near 75 or 80 percent of who Grant (usually) is,” head coach Steve Alford said after the game. “I appreciate him trying because it’s not easy as an athlete to play when you know you’re not 100 percent. But it speaks volumes to me ... I know his foot’s bothering him; he got stepped on midway through the second half and wasn’t the same. I probably should’ve taken him out but he’s such a competitor. I knew he wanted to play.”
Sherfield finished with 11 points and a team-high seven assists, shooting 4-for-11 from the floor and hauling down four rebounds.
“I always want to play the game to the best of my ability, but I just can’t right now,” Sherfield said.
Nevada shot 55.1 percent, canning nine of its 24 triple tries (37.5 percent) on the night. Colorado State shot 51.0 percent and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
But the game’s biggest discrepancy came at the charity stripe: Colorado State made 22 free throws at a 81.5 percent clip; Nevada netted nine at a 69.2 percent clip.
“The game was lost at the free throw line,” Alford said, stating that Tuesday’s offensive performance replicated Sunday’s outing against San Diego State, where Nevada got outscored 17-7 at the charity stripe in the two-point loss despite draining 10 3s.
“One team gets 22 points at the line; the other gets nine. And the exact same thing happened with San Diego State. I think our guys are playing hard and doing a lot of good things, we just got to figure out how we get some points at the (free-throw) line. When you look at — we shot 55 percent for the game, they shot 51; they made 10 3s, we made nine; they made 25 field goals, we made 27; they got 27 rebounds, we got 23; they had 16 assists, we had 16 assists. The difference was the free-throw line.”
The Wolf Pack’s now dropped six straight games for the first time since 2014-15, falling to 9-13 with an abysmal 3-8 conference record. They also sink to 1-12 in Quad 1 or 2 games. Colorado State improved to 18-3 and 8-3 in conference play.
“I don’t fault our guys’ effort at all,” Alford said. “I think our effort has been really good. And it’s a tough stretch where we’ve lost a lot of games in a row and we just got to stay positive and keep grinding, keep working and perservere through this rut that we’re in right now.”
Blackshear’s steal followed by Baker’s two-handed jam gave the Pack an early 8-7 lead. Roddy’s stepback triple over Nevada’s Tre Coleman gave CSU the 14-10 advantage with 11:54 to go in the first half.
Moore’s triple widened it to 24-15, though Nevada responded on a 7-2 run to cut it to four with under seven minutes remaining in the opening half.
Colorado State upped its lead to double-digits from Roddy’s seventh basket — and third 3-pointer — of the half, giving him 19 first half points. Cambridge’s 3-point buzzer beater over multiple Ram defenders made it 36-31 heading into halftime.
Nevada shot 52.0 percent, though 11 of its 12 misses came from 3-point range, shooting just 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from distance. Colorado State shot 48.0 percent and 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Stevens’ reverse layup quickly followed by Roddy’s fourth triple of the evening quickly made it 53-36 with 15:19 left in regulation. Blackshear’s pull-up jumper cut it to 65-53 with 7:51 left, but Moore’s corner triple on the following possession increased its advantage back up to 15.
Back-to-back Cambridge triples put the Pack within eight with 3:33 left, but they weren’t able to conjur enough possessions-ending-in-points down the stretch to tie or take the league in their comeback effort.
Next up: Nevada hits the road once again to take on the Utah State Aggies on Friday, Feb. 11. The Pack have lost Aggies once already this season, 78-49 — a performance where Alford said he was the most “embarrased” he’s ever seen one of his teams play after the game.