The team with the best offense in the Mountain West showed Tuesday night that it can also play a little defense.
“They had a good game plan against us,“ Nevada coach David Carter said after his Wolf Pack lost to the Boise State Broncos, 74-65, in front of a disappointed home crowd of 8,669. “That’s a very mature, veteran team. They‘ll figure out a way to beat you.”
The Broncos, who came into the game with the best offense in the conference at 79.6 points a game, ended the Wolf Pack’s four-game winning streak with a suffocating defense.
“Give them credit defensively,” Pack point guard Deonte Burton said. “They really sagged and packed the paint. They took away the drive.”
The Broncos seemingly put up a wall between the Wolf Pack and the basket. The Pack made just 19-of-55 field goal attempts (.345) for its worst shooting night of the season since it went 17-of-50 (34 per cent) against Morehead State on Nov. 24 in a 63-58 loss.
“They clogged up the driving lanes,” Carter said. “Every time we tried to drive the ball they had help there.”
Burton, who entered the game as the Mountain West’s leading scorer at 21.8 points a game, seemed to be the focus of the Broncos’ sagging defense. The senior had a season-low one field goal (on eight shots) and seven points.
“I missed lay-ups, I missed pull-ups,” Burton said. “The ball wouldn’t fall.”
The eight shot attempts (four 3-pointers) were also a season low for Burton, who seemed to lose his aggressiveness as the game wore on. Burton, who was guarded by Boise’s Derrick Marks most of the night, took just three shots in the second half.
“Marks did a great job of making it tough to get around him,” Carter said. “But they did a real good job as a team, giving help and taking away all the driving lanes.”
Burton scored four points in the first half and three in the second.
“The outside shots were open,” said Burton, who had six assists. “When they sag like that, you have to knock down those outside shots so they then have to respect that. We just didn’t make enough of those shots.”
For the first four minutes of the game it was the Broncos who weren’t making any shots. The Wolf Pack jumped out to a 7-0 lead as Boise State didn’t score until Ryan Watkins’ lay-up 4:07 into the game.
“We had a good flow,“ Carter said. “After that we missed lay-ups, had some defensive breakdowns and turned the ball over. They really took advantage of that and it changed the momentum.”
After falling behind 7-0, the Broncos held the Wolf Pack without a point for over five minutes, going on a momentum-changing 15-0 run to take a 15-7 lead with 11:38 to go in the first half. The Pack missed five shots and two free throws and also turned the ball over twice during Boise’s run.
Marks hit a 3-pointer to give Boise a 28-18 lead with 6:45 to go in the first half. Both teams’ offenses, though, dried up the rest of the first half as Boise went into halftime with a 30-23 lead. After Marks’ basket, both teams failed to score over the next 3:46. Boise scored just two points in the final 6:45 of the half.
“We kind of came out flat energy-wise in the first half,” Burton said. “You can’t come out like that against a team like that.”
The energized Wolf Pack came out in the second half and actually took a 31-30 lead on a 3-point play by A.J. West with 18:01 to go. The slim Pack lead was compliments of a disappearing Broncos offense. Boise State went just over nine minutes without a field goal over the final 6:45 of the first half and the first 2:18 of the second half.
That 31-30 advantage, however, turned out to be the Pack’s final lead of the night. The Wolf Pack kept the game close midway through the second half as Ali Fall hit a hook shot in the lane to tie the game at 42-42 with 10:37 to go.
But Boise owned the final 10 minutes.
Another Wolf Pack scoring drought allowed Boise to take control of the game. The Pack went 4:09 without a point as Boise went on a game-changing 10-0 run to take a 52-42 lead with 6:48 left. Anthony Drmic hit a 3-pointer for a 47-42 lead, Marks hit a three for a 50-42 lead and added a shot jumper for a 52-42 Bronco advantage. Marks would finish with a game-high 21 points.
“Today just wasn’t our day,” Wolf Pack guard Jerry Evans said. “We just didn’t make them pay.”
Much of the season-high crowd headed for the exits after Drmic walked in for a lay-up and a 63-49 Boise State lead with 3:31 to go.
“We’re not going to shoot the ball spectacularly every night,” Burton said. “Those things happen. It was like that inbounds play (in the second half). I get the ball right in front of the basket and I missed. I make that nine times out of 10. But that was that one time. That should have been a lay-up.”
The Pack’s Michael Perez scored 10 points in the final 3:18 when the game was out of reach to finish with 16 points. Jerry Evans also had four points in the final 1:44 to finish with a team-high 17.
“Our defense was good enough to win this game,” said Pack junior Cole Huff, who had 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting. “But our lack of scoring hurt.”
The Wolf Pack fell to 9-9 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West with the loss. Boise improved to 12-5, 2-2 after consecutive league losses to Wyoming and San Diego State.
“This is a tough loss,” Huff said. “But we’ll be OK. We’ll learn from this.”
The Wolf Pack now gets a week off before playing at Fresno State on Wednesday.
“We learned that when you win four in a row, you can’t get happy,” Carter said. “Everyone was telling us how great a job we were doing when we haven’t done anything yet.”