RENO -- Kirk Snyder is making a habit of coming up huge in big games. He scored a career-high 21 points in an 88-85 win over Fresno State earlier this season. The Bulldogs were considered the preseason favorite to win the Western Athletic Conference.
On Thursday, the Wolf Pack played Hawai'i, the team that's actually in first place. So an encore performance from Snyder was needed. He didn't disappoint.
Snyder scored a career-high 22 points, leading four players in double figures as Nevada took care of the Rainbow Warriors, 79-69 before an announced crowd of 6,748 at Lawlor Events Center.
The win moves the Wolf Pack (16-11 overall, 9-8 WAC) into a tie for fourth place in the conference with Southern Methodist. The Mustangs, though, hold the tie breaker over Nevada since they've beaten the Wolf Pack both times this season.
Regardless, this win gives the Wolf Pack another quality win as they close in on a possible NIT bid. Hawai'i (23-5, 14-3) is now a 1/2 game behind Tulsa for first place in the WAC. The Golden Hurricane beat Rice on Thursday to improve to 15-3 in the conference.
Still, the players weren't ready to ponder the future just yet.
"We try not to look too far ahead...for now," said Corey Jackson, who scored 10 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.
The Wolf Pack trailed most of the first half before an 18-0 run put them ahead for good. After trailing 19-14 with 9:08 left in the half, Kevinn Pinkney's basket with under four minutes remaining made it 32-19. Nevada led 35-29 at the break. Pinkney came off the bench to score 12, tying a career high, and Andre Hazel scored six off the bench.
"We got some good production off the bench," said Terrance Green, who scored 14. "I think that was the key."
The Rainbow Warriors cut the Wolf Pack lead to 35-31 before Snyder started to take over. The freshman hit back-to-back shots, including a 3-pointer with at the 15:29 mark that put Nevada up 46-38. Hazel's 3-pointer with 4:36 left gave the Wolf Pack their biggest lead of the game, 67-53.
All of this came with Predrag Savovic, the Rainbow Warriors' leading scorer and the WAC's third-leading scorer, spending most of the second half on the bench because of back spasms. After leaving the game with just under 18 minutes left to go, Savovic reentered the game with 12:08 left, but quickly left again. He ended up with five points in 22 minutes, over 16 below his season average (21.2). Hawai'i was led by Phil Martin, who led three players in double figures with 19. The Rainbow Warriors never got within eight points of the lead over the last 15 minutes of the game.
"Savovic was hurt, he's a big key to that group," said coach Trent Johnson. "You don't lose a kid like that and it not hurt you."
Nevada's win avenged an 18 point loss to the Rainbow Warriors back on Dec. 29 in Honolulu.
"I think we were just more prepared for what they had," Jackson said. "This was a great win. Hopefully we'll let it carry on to the weekend."
The Wolf Pack takes on San Jose State on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Lawlor. Nevada needed overtime to beat the Spartans in San Jose, Calif. San Jose State is currently tied with UTEP for last place in the conference.
"I think it's huge as far as confidence," Green said of Thursday's win. "Beating the No. 1 team (in the conference), you feel you can play with anybody. If we play anywhere near how we played tonight (vs. San Jose State), I think we can be successful."