Maybe it was the crisp 28° Reno weather that led to an uncharacteristic sluggish start for both San Jose State (16-12, MW 7-8) and Nevada (21-7, MW 11-4) on Tuesday night.
Or maybe it was the Spartan defense that laid the groundwork in a first-half that initially stymied Nevada’s big scorers, before three of the Spartans’ interior players found foul trouble that allowed the Wolf Pack bigs to feast and pull away to a convincing 66-51 Nevada win.
With the Spartans getting their own open looks, they were not hitting enough shots to alter the game in a dismal first ten minutes of the first-half of shooting for both teams.
A clunky first-half saw the first 10 minutes with an 8-7 Spartan lead.
With SJS finally hitting a microburst of offense from guards Alvaro Cardenas and Omari Moore and forward Tibet Gorener to get to a 15-12 lead with seven minutes in the first-half that pushed out to a 23-15 lead - until Nevada came up from their deep freeze with three minutes left.
A Spartan 28-24 lead to end the first-half left no doubt the Wolf Pack were simmering before erupting.
The Spartans’ defense exerted so much energy inside it wasn’t sustainable unless the SJS could counter with more scoring to soften the blow for what was to come.
The second-half saw plenty of good action with a flurry of scoring exchanges.
Immediately double teaming Moore was the clear Pack intent to stop any downhill scoring and facilitating. Though Moore ended with 13 points, Nevada kept Moore shotless until eight minutes into the second-half.
Meanwhile, head coach Tim Miles called an atypical early timeout for an emotional blast with the timid Spartan start. What immediately followed was the big Spartan run.
Sage Tolbert’s two-handed dunk. Cardenas led center Ibrahima Diallo to an open dunk. Gorener followed with his perimeter pump fake and dunk.
The Wolf Pack stood its ground as their once dormant scorers started to come alive. Darrion Williams and Will Baker led a 9-0 run at the 13:34 mark and a later 10-0 run that would see the game slipping away for the Spartans with three minutes left.
Three’s by Gorener, Moore and Cardenas would be a last gasp, but as the story goes, it was too little too late.
San Jose State heads back home to face Boise State Saturday afternoon in their last of three remaining regular season games.