Nevada notched its seventh road win of the season, but it needed a huge second half to accomplish it.
The Pack overcame a 26 percent shooting performance in the first half to score 47 second-half points en route to a 71-54 victory over last-place San Jose State at the Event Center on Wednesday night in San Jose, California.
Nevada improved to 16-3 overall and 6-0 in Mountain West Conference play heading into Saturday’s home showdown at 7 p.m. against Boise State, 6-1. The Broncos posted a come-from-behind home win against Utah State to stay one game behind the Pack in the loss column.
Nevada played without guard Cody Martin. It was a game-time decision, according to Johnny Jones, associate head coach. And, it was evident that the Pack missed the star guard, who is averaging 13 points a game. His status for Boise State is unknown at this time.
“It takes experience (to come from behind on the road),” said Jones. “Coach Musselman does a great job of going in (at the half) and making adjustments. We started winning the four-minute segments (in the second half).
“It was extremely tough coming into this environment. San Jose State did an excellent job competing in the first half. Everybody was trying to take up the slack (of playing without Cody Martin), and we never got in a good rhythm.”
Indeed. Nevada was 8-for-30 from the field, including 3-for-16 from beyond the arc. Despite the shooting woes, Nevada only trailed 26-24 at the half. The 24 points at the half was the lowest total of the season.
Things changed in the second half, as Caleb Martin and Kendall Stephens carried the team offensively. Martin scored 13 of his 24 points over the final 20 minutes and Stephens had 16 of his 19 in the same span.
“We got some good looks in the second half and the shots started going down,” Jones said. “We started playing downhill and forced them to defend the rim. In the first half we were taking quick 3s.”
Nevada trailed 34-30, but the Pack scored 12 of the next 13 points to take a 42-35 lead with 10:55 left in the game.
Elijah Foster started the surge with a free throw to cut the San Jose State lead to 34-31. Hallice Cooke tied it at 34 moments later with a 3-pointer. San Jose State took its last lead, 35-34 on a free throw by Isaiah Nichols with 13:23 remaining.
Caleb Martin scored two free throws with 12:55 left and then added a three-point play to extend the lead to 39-35 with 11:53 remaining. Stephens buried a triple from the right corner that was matched by Jalen James. Another three-point play by Caleb Martin made it 45-38.
San Jose State never got closer than six the rest of the way. A 7-0 run thanks to two free throws by Lindsey Drew, a layup by Caleb Martin and another trey by Stephens got the lead to double digits, 61-48 with 2:49 left.
NOTES: Nevada has won its last 12 Mountain West games and last 15 vs. MW opponents when you include the three at the 2017 conference tournament … The 17-3 record after 20 games in the best start under third-year head coach Eric Musselman … Nevada has had a player scored 20 or more points in 17-of-20 games this season and a Pack player scored 19 in the other three games … Stephens has made five or more 3-pointers in a game eight times this season … Caleb Martin has led Nevada in scoring 11 times this season.