Nevada players celebrate during Friday’s victory against Boise State at Lawlor Events Center in Reno. (Photo: University of Nevada)
The Nevada Wolf Pack players made their head coach smile this past weekend.
“Absolutely ecstatic for our team,” Nevada coach Steve Alford said after a 73-62 victory over the Boise State Broncos on Sunday that gave the Wolf Pack a four-game winning streak. “I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Wolf Pack, now 14-7 overall and 9-5 in conference, moved up a spot to No.4 in the Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings this week. Boise State (14-4, 10-3) dropped four spots from No. 1 to No. 5 with the two losses to Nevada. The Broncos have now lost three of their last four games after winning 13 in a row.
“I don’t know if it’s being out on the road for two weeks but we didn’t have the pep in our step that we usually have,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Nevada swept a pair of two-game series from both UNLV and Boise State at home in the last two weeks to climb into the Mountain West race. The Wolf Pack trails Utah State (11-1 in league play), Colorado State (11-3), Boise State (10-3) and San Diego State (7-3) in the Mountain West standings.
“I don’t think we’re sending a message to the conference yet,” Alford said. “More than anything it sends a message to our own team. I hope we build a lot of confidence with this.”
The Pack players, though, apparently have conference and think the rest of the conference will clearly notice what the Pack did to Boise State.
“This was a great message to the rest of the conference,” said Desmond Cambridge, who had 21 points in a 74-72 win over Boise on Friday and 17 in Sunday’s 73-62 victory.
“It’s definitely a message to the whole conference,” said guard Grant Sherfield, who had 20 points and 14 assists on Friday and 29 points and eight assists on Sunday. “Everybody will wake up and realize we’re a pretty good team.”
The Wolf Pack has just six regular season games remaining (two-game series against San Jose State, Colorado State and Utah State) before the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas March 10-13.
“This was going to be our toughest stretch of the year, even though we were at home,” said Alford of the two-game series at home against UNLV (Jan. 31, Feb. 2) and Boise State. “We went 4-0 and played well at both ends of the floor. Our guys are focused and gave us everything they had.”
The four-game winning streak in a span of eight days is the Pack’s longest since it won six in a row last season, from Feb. 4-25, 2020.
“This was a tremendous eight days,” Alford said.
Boise State, which got 23 points from Derrick Alston on Friday and 17 on Sunday, still leads the Mountain West in offense at 78.4 points a game despite averaging just 67 against Nevada. The Broncos shot just 34.6 percent on Sunday, their worst shooting performance of the season. Their 62 points on Sunday is their third fewest of the season.
“I’m not panicking in any way, shape or form,” Alston said.
Rice, though, is concerned about his Broncos.
“We’re in a valley and we’ve got to fight ourselves out of it,” he said. “We’ll figure out who wants to do their jobs and who can do it at the highest level.”
Colorado State jumped into the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a pair of victories over No. 7 Wyoming, 74-72 and 68-59.
David Roddy had 15 points in each game for Colorado State. Kendle Moore’s layup with six seconds to go beat Wyoming in the series opener.
Wyoming has now lost four games in a row since it swept a two-game series from Nevada. Nevada hasn’t lost since.
“I told the guys after the (second loss to Colorado State) that you have to see the forest for the trees,” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said. “It’s easy to get down. It’s easy to pull apart. We’ve got to stick together. We’re not that far off.”
No. 2 Utah State whipped Fresno State 69-53 in its only game last week. The Aggies, though, didn’t play all that well, making just 6-of-14 threes. No Utah State player had more than five rebounds and Neemias Queta led the Aggies with just 14 points. Christian Gray led Fresno State with nine points as the Bulldogs were 4-of-19 on threes.
“It wasn’t a painting by Van Gogh,” Utah State Craig Smith said. “It looked more like me drawing stick men. It showed that we were, I don’t want to say rusty, but we hadn’t played a game in eight days.”
No. 6 UNLV beat No. 10 Air Force 68-58 on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak. The Rebels were boosted by the return to the floor of Bryce Hamilton, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Hamilton did not play in the two losses to Nevada.
“Air Force has a very deliberate style, offensively and defensively,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We knew it was going to pose some challenges.”
Air Force scored 45 of its 58 points on 3-pointers, making 15-of-32. The Falcons were just 5-of-14 on shots inside the 3-point circle and just 3-of-7 from the free throw line. UNLV was 2-of-14 on threes and 25-of-32 on shots inside the arc.
Just seven league games were played in the Mountain West last week, three by Nevada. Three teams (No. 3 San Diego State, No. 9 San Jose State and No. 11 New Mexico) didn’t play at all last week. The San Diego State at New Mexico two-game series was canceled because of health and safety concerns while the second game of the Utah State at Fresno State series was postponed.
There are 12 Mountain West games scheduled this week. Nevada, which will play at San Jose State on Saturday and Feb. 15, has just two games in the next 12 days (Feb. 8-19).
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings:
1. COLORADO STATE (14-4, 11-3): Last week: Colorado State 74, Wyoming 72 (Feb. 4), Colorado State 68, Wyoming 59 (Feb. 6). This week: New Mexico at Colorado State (Feb. 9, 11).
2. UTAH STATE (14-5, 11-2): Last week: Utah State 69, Fresno State 53 (Feb. 4). This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Feb. 10, 12).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (13-4, 7-3): Last week: Idle. This week: San Jose State at San Diego State (Feb. 8, 10).
4. NEVADA (14-7, 9-5): Last week: Nevada 72, UNLV 62 (Feb. 2), Nevada 74, Boise State 72 (Feb. 5), Nevada 73, Boise State 62 (Feb. 7). This week: Nevada at San Jose State (Feb. 13).
5. BOISE STATE (14-4, 10-3): Last week: Nevada 74, Boise State 72 (Feb. 5), Nevada 73, Boise State 62 (Feb. 7). This week: UNLV at Boise State (Feb. 11, 13).
6. UNLV (7-9, 4-5): Last week: Nevada 72, UNLV 62 (Feb. 2), UNLV 68, Air Force 58 (Feb. 6). This week: Air Force at UNLV (Feb. 8), UNLV at Boise State (Feb. 11, 13).
7. WYOMING (10-9, 4-8): Last week: Colorado State 74, Wyoming 72 (Feb. 4), Colorado State 68, Wyoming 59 (Feb. 6). This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Feb. 10, 12).
8. FRESNO STATE (7-7, 5-7): Last week: Utah State 69, Fresno State 53 (Feb. 4). This week: Fresno State at Air Force (Feb. 11, 13).
9. SAN JOSE STATE (5-11, 3-9): Last week: Idle. This week: San Jose State at San Diego State (Feb. 8, 10), Nevada at San Jose State (Feb. 13).
10. AIR FORCE (4-13, 2-11): Last week: UNLV 68, Air Force 58 (Feb. 6). This week: Air Force at UNLV (Feb. 8), Fresno State at Air Force (Feb. 11, 13).
11. NEW MEXICO (5-11, 1-11): Last week: Idle. This week: New Mexico at Colorado State (Feb. 9, 11).