It was not exactly a great week for Mountain West men’s basketball.
The Nevada Wolf Pack, the No. 1 team in the Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings, kept winning with an impressive 86-71 victory at Utah on Saturday. But most everybody else in the conference struggled.
The 11 Mountain West teams combined to go just 4-6 last week with a pair of shocking losses. Fresno State lost to the Western Athletic Conference’s Utah Valley Wolverines, 64-60, at home and San Diego State lost 82-61 at home to the Ivy league’s Brown Bears. The top nine teams in last week’s Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West rankings combined to go just 2-6.
The Wolf Pack needed 33 points from Caleb Martin, 25 in the second half, to put away Utah of the Pac-12 Conference. The Pack is now 13-0, just a victory away from the school’s best start to a season (14-0 in 1951-52). That victory could come Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center as the Wolf Pack opens Mountain West play against No. 2 Utah State (10-3).
“We were lackadaisical at the start of the second half,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who coached the Montana Grizzlies to a stunning victory over the Wolf Pack in the 2006 NCAA tournament’s first round in Salt Lake City’s Huntsman Center, the site of Saturday’s game. “And we fueled their fire to start the second half by turning the ball over.”
Utah had won eight games in a row at the Huntsman Center dating back to last season. The Wolf Pack beat three Pac-12 teams (Arizona State, USC and Utah) during its 13-game non-conference season. It’s the first time the Pack has beaten three Pac-12 schools in a season.
Utah State jumped up a spot to No. 2 with an easy 84-57 win over Eastern Oregon, an NAIA school. The Aggies, 6-0 at home, have never lost to a non-Division I school in the regular season in school history and are 26-0 against NAIA schools.
Utah State, though, is just 4-3 away from home this season and is 0-3 against Eric Musselman-coached Wolf Pack teams in Reno.
Fresno State, now 9-3, dropped a spot to No. 3 after a shocking loss to Utah Valley at home. The Bulldogs were a perfect 7-0 at home.
“It looked like a toothache out there a little bit, right?” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said. “We just never got in a rhythm offensively.”
Fresno State set season lows for points (61), 3-pointers made (3) and field goals made (18) against Utah Valley.
“We’ll come back and get better,” said Hutson, who will get leading scorer Deshon Taylor back from an elbow injury either this week or next. Taylor has missed the Bulldogs last four games.
San Diego State (7-5) held onto the No. 4 spot after its blowout loss to Brown at home. Brown senior Travis Fuller, a San Diego-area native, entertained his teammates at his family’s home the night before the game.
“We had tacos,” said Brown sophomore Desmond Cambridge, who scored 25 points on seven 3-pointers. “We got in the Jacuzzi. It was nice.”
“The Mexican food was phenomenal,” Fuller said. “The hot tub got us ready. It’s our secret recipe.”
Brown went on a 26-0 run to take a 50-22 halftime lead.
“We could never recover,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
UNLV (6-6) stayed at No. 5 despite a pair of losses at the Diamond Head Class in Hawaii to Indiana State (84-79) and Bucknell (97-72). The Rebels’ Joel Ntambwe, a 6-foot-9 freshman, continues to impress. Ntambwe had 21 points and 15 rebounds against Indiana State and had 13 points and seven boards against Bucknell. Another Rebel freshman, 6-8 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua from Cameroon, had five points and 10 rebounds against Indiana State and nine points and seven rebounds against Bucknell.
New Mexico (5-6) was idle last week, and moved up a spot to No. 6, ahead of No. 7 Boise State (5-8). Boise State lost another tough game to Oregon, 62-50 at Boise, despite the absence of Oregon’s leading scorer Bol Bol (21 points a game). Oregon also beat the Broncos 66-54 on Dec. 15 in Oregon.
Oregon was led by former Nevada player Ehab Amin, who had 23 points and six rebounds off the bench. Amin was a member of the Wolf Pack for only about a month last May after transferring from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Amin, who’s from Alexandria, Egypt, left the Wolf Pack after the Pack signed freshman Jordan Brown and seniors Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline all announced they were coming back to Nevada for their senior seasons.
Colorado State (5-7) was idle last week and remained at No. 8. Air Force (5-7) moved up two spots to No. 9 after a 72-60 victory at home over UC Riverside. Ryan Swan had 16 points against Riverside as Air Force made 25-of-45 field goal attempts and 8-of-16 3-pointers.
San Jose State (3-9) dropped to No. 10 after a 75-45 loss to Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s scored the final 25 points of the first half as San Jose State failed to score over the final 10:46 of the half.
Wyoming (4-9) dropped a spot to No. 11 after a narrow 65-63 home win over Dixie State, a Division II school from St. George, Utah. The Cowboys needed a 3-pointer by freshman Trace Young at the buzzer to beat Dixie State.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Dec. 30-Jan. 6 . . .
1. NEVADA (13-0): The Wolf Pack’s 86 points against Utah are its most since a 110-87 win over Massachusetts on Nov. 23, a span of six games. Last week: Nevada 86, Utah 71. This week: Utah State at Nevada (Wednesday); Nevada at New Mexico (Saturday).
2. UTAH STATE (10-3): Justin Bean, a 6-7 freshman, scored more points (12) against Eastern Oregon than he had all season long (10) combined. Last week: Utah State 84, Eastern Oregon 57. This week: Utah State at Nevada (Wednesday); Air Force at Utah State (Saturday).
3. FRESNO STATE (9-3): Fresno State’s seven-game winning streak came to an end with the loss to Utah Valley. Last week: Utah Valley 64, Fresno State 60. This week: Fresno State at San Jose State (Wednesday); Colorado State at Fresno State (Saturday).
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (7-5): Seniors Jeremy Hemsley and Devin Watson combined for four points (all by Watson) in 59 minutes against Brown. Last week: Brown 82, San Diego State 61. This week: Cal State Northridge at San Diego State (Tuesday); San Diego State at Boise State (Saturday).
5. UNLV (6-6): Kris Clyburn scored 21 points combined against Indians State and Bucknell but shot just 9-of-27. Last week: Indiana State 84, UNLV 79; Bucknell 97, UNLV 72. This week: Colorado State at UNLV (Wednesday); Wyoming at UNLV (Saturday).
6. BOISE STATE (5-8): Pat Dembley, a 6-1 junior in his first season at Boise, had 13 points against Oregon. Last week: Oregon 62, Boise State 50. This week: Boise State at Wyoming (Wednesday); San Diego State at Boise State (Saturday).
7. NEW MEXICO (5-6): Carlton Bragg, a 6-10 junior transfer from the Kansas Jayhawks, has played three games for the Lobos after becoming eligible two weeks ago and is averaging 11.7 points a game. Last week: No games. This week: New Mexico vs. University of the Southwest (Dec. 30); New Mexico at Air Force (Wednesday); Nevada at New Mexico (Saturday).
8. COLORADO STATE (5-7): Nico Carvacho, a 6-4 junior, is averaging a double-double (14.3 points, 12.6 rebounds) this season. Last week: No games. This week: New Mexico State at Colorado State (Dec. 30); Colorado State at UNLV (Wednesday); Colorado State at Fresno State (Saturday).
9. AIR FORCE (5-7): Chris Joyce, a 6-5 sophomore, had nine points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench against UC Riverside. Last week: Air Force 72, UC Riverside 60. This week: New Mexico at Air Force (Wednesday); Air Force at Utah State (Saturday).
10. SAN JOSE STATE (3-9): Oumar Barry’s 11 points led the Spartans against St. Mary’s. It is the fewest points to lead San Jose State in scoring in a game this season. Last week: Saint Mary’s 75, San Jose State 45. This week: Fresno State at San Jose State (Wednesday).
11. WYOMING (4-9): Trace Young, who hit a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, was making his college debut against Dixie State. The 6-9 forward had 16 points and six rebounds as well as four threes. Last week: Wyoming 65, Dixie State 63. This week: Boise State at Wyoming; Wyoming at UNLV (Saturday).