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Nevada squeezes through a 67-54 win over Air Force

It wasn’t pretty, but Nevada squeaked through for its second conference win.

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal JASON BEAN/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Nevada returned to Lawlor for its first home game against a Mountain West team this season. Hosting the Air Force Falcons, Nevada got an early taste of how difficult conference play can be.

It wasn’t a pretty win, but Nevada could hold onto a 67-54 win over Air Force and improved to 2-0 in the conference. Free throw shooting and a late second-half surge by the Wolf Pack helped them improve to 15-1 overall.

Scoring Summary

1st Half

Air Force 24 - Nevada 30

2nd Half

Air Force 30 - Nevada 37

Final: Air Force 54, Nevada 67

Offense

Nevada’s free throw shooting was once again the hero. As a team, Nevada shot 20-29, including seven from Kenan Blackshear. The star guard led the team in scoring with 22 points, also picking up three rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and a steal.

The three-point shooting this year for Nevada is about as confusing as Ken Wilson’s tenure with its football program. The results have been up and down, but it’s improved over the last few games. The Wolf Pack shot 7-15 from deep, including three of them from Jarod Lucas.

Blackshear, Nick Davidson, Tre Coleman, and Hunter McIntosh all made a shot from beyond the arc as well. Nevada is a team that doesn’t necessarily need the three-point shot to win, but being able to make them in key moments will be this team’s X-factor.

The turnover battle is one Nevada usually wins, and that’s something it did in this one. After limiting itself to only three in last week’s Fresno State win, Nevada collected 10 turnovers in comparison to Air Force’s 13. It wasn’t exactly “Wolf Pack Basketball,” with double-digit turnovers, but sloppy wins are still wins.

Defense

It wasn’t the most dominant this Nevada defense has played, but it managed to shut it down when it got close. The Pack held the Flacons to 37.3 percent from the floor and kept them under 30 points in the first half.

Nevada also did a great job at keeping Air Force away from the free-throw line. The Falcons only shot 6-7 from the line, with all six coming from three different players.

The one area Air Force was able to capitalize on was the three-point shot. The Falcons shot 10-23, with most of them being answers to a Nevada bucket. Air Force was able to cut the deficit to as low as two towards the end of the game, but Nevada continued to find a way to hold onto the lead.

What’s Next

The most electric game at Lawlor so far this year will take place Friday, January 12 at 7;30 p.m. PST. Nevada will host Boise State as both teams are 2-0 in the Mountain West so far.

It’s an extremely good and challenging year for Mountain West Basketball right now. Three teams (Colorado at 17, SDSU at 19, and Utah State at 20) are all in the Top 25. Nevada continues to get votes, and more wins against Mountain West foes means a better chance of joining that list. For now, let’s take it one game at a time and beat Boise State.