RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack kept playing a smooth Jazz record over and over Saturday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.
Senior guard Jazz Johnson set a career-high for points (34) and 3-pointers (eight) as the Wolf Pack buried the Boise State Broncos 83-66 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd of 8,681.
“I was just having fun,” Johnson said. “Everybody on the bench was having fun and the crowd was amazing.”
Johnson’s eight threes are the most by a Pack player in a game since Marcus Marshall also had eight against UNLV on Feb, 25, 2017 and are just one short of the school record of nine by Brian Green (Dec. 2, 1995 against Baylor) and Derrick Anderson (against Fullerton on Feb. 11, 1999).
“He was great on his fakes, he was great coming off screens,” said coach Steve Alford, whose Wolf Pack has now won eight of its last 10 games to improve to 10-5 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West. “Jazz just had a great night.”
Johnson, who was 8-of-12 on threes, broke his career high of seven threes in a game, set last year against Air Force and equaled this season against Bowling Green. His Wolf Pack career scoring high before Saturday was 27 at Air Force on March 5, 2019.
“This was my best game in college,” Johnson said. “I scored 44 in high school (in Portland, Ore.) against Ben Simmons’ team but we got blasted. This was more fun because we won.”
Rob Harden (against Idaho State on Feb. 8, 1985) and Kevin Franklin (against Loyola Marymount on Nov. 25, 1989) are the only other Pack players to have as many as eight threes in a game.
“When he’s hot like that, there’s no point in stopping to give him the ball,” said Pack point guard Lindsey Drew, who had 14 points and nine assists. “He deserves it. He keeps putting in the work. When he’s shooting it like that we’re hard to stop.”
Johnson was just 1-of-6 on threes and 4-of-16 from the floor overall in the Wolf Pack’s 67-61 win over Colorado State on Wednesday at Lawlor. He was just 7-of-25 on threes over his last five games before Saturday.
“We spent time with him watching film (Thursday) and we saw that he was just a little off balance,” Alford said. “I made sure to tell him, ‘We want you taking those shots. But we don’t want you taking off-balance shots. They have to be good, on-balance shots.’ That’s what he did (Saturday). He took good shots with balance.”
“I just saw on film that I was slightly off balance (against Colorado State),” Johnson said. “It was just a slight adjustment but it’s those slight adjustments that mean everything when you are shooting the ball. I saw that and took it to practice and worked on it.”
Johnson was 5-of-9 on threes in the first half and a perfect 3-of-3 in the second half.
“I definitely felt I had more energy tonight,” Johnson said. “That last game I had a little cold but that is gone now. It was just fun to be out there.”
Boise (10-6, 2-2) led for 13 minutes in the first half but it was the Wolf Pack that took a 39-35 lead into the locker room at the break. And the reason was Johnson.
The 5-foot-10 senior scored 18 points in a span of just over five minutes as the Pack turned a 19-11 deficit 10 minutes into the game into a 32-29 lead with 4:27 to go in the half.
Johnson, who had 21 points in the first half, was the only Pack player scoring at one point. He scored 13 consecutive Wolf Pack points in just under four minutes as the Pack sliced Boise’s lead to just 25-24 with 6:16 left in the half. Kane Milling, who had not connected on a 3-pointer since he had three against Air Force on Dec. 7, snapped Johnson’s scoring streak with a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 27-25 Pack lead with 5:39 left in the half. It was the first Pack lead in 14 minutes, since Jalen Harris put the Pack up 2-0 just 14 seconds into the game with a 12-foot jumper.
Johnson, who was 8-of-13 from the floor in the opening half, then scored five more Pack points in a row for a 32-29 Nevada lead with 4:27 to go. Johnson’s 21 first-half points alone were the most he scored in a full game since he had 25 against Bowling Green on Nov. 25.
“I just thought offensively the ball moved better and we were very sharp,” Alford said. “We didn’t play with great energy against Colorado State and our guys really came out and responded (against Boise).”
Drew took just one shot in the first half but it was a big one. The 6-4 senior, who had five assists in the first half, connected on a 3-pointer for a 35-33 Pack lead with 2:46 to go in the half.
Harris, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, closed the scoring in the first half for the Pack, hitting a 15-foot jumper for a 37-35 lead with 1:24 to go and jamming home a dunk from the right side for a 39-35 lead with 34 seconds to play.
Johnson and Harris, who had 10 first-half points, combined for 31 of the Pack’s 39 points at halftime and took 22 of the 28 shots, making 12 of the 15 field goals. Drew joined in the fun in the second half, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The trio (Johnson, Harris, Drew) combined for 63 of the Pack’s 83 points and made 25 of the team’s 33 field goals and 12 of the 14 threes.
The Pack was 33-of-59 from the floor overall as a team (56 percent) and 14-of-29 on threes. The 14 threes equaled the season high, set against Santa Clara on Dec. 4.
“We just came out with a lot of energy,” said Drew, who did not turn the ball over in 28 minutes.
Boise State struggled on offense, especially after the first five minutes of the game. The Broncos made three of their first five 3-point shots in the first five minutes and then proceeded to go 2-of-21 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. The Broncos were just 1-of-11 on threes in the second half and 21-of-58 from the floor (36 percent) for the game.
The Wolf Pack stayed hot the entire game, shooting 54 percent (15-of-28) in the first half and 58 percent (18-of-31) in the second half. The Pack was 8-of-17 on threes in the first 20 minutes and 6-of-12 after the break.
Johnson drained his sixth 3-pointer of the game 30 seconds into the second half for a 42-37 Pack lead and hit a short jumper for a 46-40 lead with 17:35 to go. Drew also hit his second three for a 52-45 lead with just over 16 minutes to play.
Johnson stayed hot with his seventh 3-pointer and a 58-47 Pack lead with 13 minutes to go. Drew then backed him up with a layup and a jumper as the Pack started to take control of the game with a 62-50 lead with 11:44 to go.
Harris then stretched the lead to 15 (67-52) with a three of his own with 10 minutes left. And it was Johnson’s eighth and final 3-pointer of the game that all but sewed up the victory, giving the Pack a commanding 74-54 lead with 5:49 to play. A dunk by Drew kept the lead at 20 (78-58) with four minutes left.
The Wolf Pack will now head out onto the road with games at San Jose State on Wednesday and Utah State on Saturday before turning to Lawlor to host Wyoming on Jan. 14.,”
“I couldn’t be happier after 15 games,” Alford said.