Nevada guard Grant Sherfield (25) celebrates making a basket against Utah State guard Steven Ashworth (3) on Feb. 11, 2022, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)
The Nevada Wolf Pack finally couldn’t take it anymore. After six frustrating games and nearly three agonizing weeks, the Wolf Pack men’s basketball team simply refused to lose.
“They came in here and wanted it more than we did,” Utah State guard Rylan Jones said after an 85-72 loss to Nevada last Friday in Logan, Utah. “They were playing desperate. They were hungrier.”
The Aggies led 37-32 at halftime but certainly weren’t hungry like the Wolf Pack in the second half. The Pack, No. 8 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings, outscored Utah State 53-35 in the second half to snap a dreadful six-game losing streak.
“This is not an easy place to play,” Nevada coach Steve Alford said of the Aggies’ Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. “It’s a different place, let me just put it that way.”
It was certainly different from Nevada’s Lawlor Events Center, the site just three weeks earlier of Utah State’s 78-49 win over Nevada. The Wolf Pack, though, made 18-of-30 shots in the second half on Friday as Desmond Cambridge (27 points) and Grant Sheffield (24) combined to score more points than the entire Pack roster did two weeks ago against Utah State.
“They played a whale of a game,” said Utah State coach Ryan Odom, who Aggies (15-11, 6-7) also lost a 78-76 heartbreaker in overtime last week to fall to No. 6. “Sherfield is a dynamite player. Our guys knew that going in. And Cambridge is dynamite. He was exceptional. For us, that was just not who we want to be.”
The Wolf Pack is now 10-13, 4-8 with two winnable games against No. 11 San Jose State (7-17, 0-12) this week (Tuesday at home, Thursday at San Jose State). The Spartans have lost 12 games in a row.
The victory at Utah State was the first for Nevada since a 77-73 win over Fresno State at home on Jan. 21.
“You’ve lost six games in a row and doubts are going to hit you at some point,” Alford said. “Our guys just stayed together and kept grinding.”
No. 1 Wyoming (21-3, 10-1) survived a scare from Utah State and trounced San Jose State, 74-52, last week. The Cowboys have now won six games in a row.
“At halftime (at San Jose State) I told the guys, ‘You can’t look at the scoreboard (just 33-29 Wyoming),” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said. “San Jose is talented but we knew we could wear them down, which we did (41-23 Wyoming in second half).”
Wyoming’s Graham Ike had 25 points and 18 rebounds against San Jose State.
“I challenged Graham at the half and he came out and dominated,” Linder said.
Wyoming trailed at the half 40-36 against Utah State before winning on a layup by Ike (28 points) with two seconds to go in overtime. Linder was given two technical fouls and ejected from the game early in the first half and turned the team over to assistant coach Ken DeWeese.
“I don’t mean to make a habit of it but I felt like I needed to fight for our guys,” said Linder, who was ejected against New Mexico last season when DeWeese took over and led the Cowboys to a victory. “I have a lot of respect for those officials but I felt I needed to stick up for my players.”
Ike scored 53 points with 30 rebounds in Wyoming’s two victories combined last week on 19-of-35 shooting.
“This is thrilling, this is what you live for, why you play the game, for these moments,” Ike said.
No. 2 Colorado State won three games last week, beating Nevada (82-72) and Boise State (77-74 in overtime) on the road and Fresno State (65-50) at home. David Roddy scored 68 points in the three games combined as the Rams improved to 20-3, 10-3.
“Just the emotional maturity the team has showed over the past few weeks is awesome,” said Roddy, who blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Boise State’s Marcus Shaver at the buzzer in overtime.
No. 3 Boise State (19-6, 10-2) played both its games last week (the Broncos also beat UNLV, 69-63) without 6-foot-8 forward Emmanuel Akot (11 points a game), who was out with a knee injury.
“This was a huge game,” said Roddy after the win at Boise State. “Boise’s a (NCAA) tournament team. Going into their house and winning is huge.”
No. 4 San Diego State (15-6, 7-3) beat San Jose State (72-62) and Air Force (76-64) last week.
“I told the team that playing Air Force is like going to the dentist,” said San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher, whose Aztecs scored 70-plus points in consecutive games last week for the first time this season. “You know you have to do it and it’s good for you. But it’s no fun.”
The Aztecs’ Matt Bradley scored just 13 points against Air Force after averaging 23.5 over his six previous games.
“We keyed on Bradley,” Air Force coach Joe Scott said. “And we did a good job on him. But the other guys stepped up.”
No. 10 Air Force (10-13, 3-9) got 27 points from A.J. Walker in the loss to San Diego State.
“I thought we fought,” said Scott, whose Falcons have lost five games in a row. “All we talked about was being tough.”
Colorado State is at UNLV, Boise State hosts Utah State and San Diego State is at Fresno State on Saturday in key Mountain West games this week. The regular season concludes March 5.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Feb. 14:
1. WYOMING (21-3, 10-1). Last week: Wyoming 78, Utah State 76 (OT) ... Wyoming 74, San Jose State 52. This week: at New Mexico (Tuesday), vs. Air Force (Saturday).
2. COLORADO STATE (20-3, 10-3). Last week: Colorado State 82, Nevada 72 ... Colorado State 65, Fresno State 50 ... Colorado State 77, Boise State 74 (OT). This week: at New Mexico (Thursday), at UNLV (Saturday).
3. BOISE STATE (19-6, 10-2). Last week: Boise State 69, UNLV 63 ... Colorado State 77, Boise State 74 (OT). This week: at Air Force (Wednesday), vs. Utah State (Saturday).
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (15-6, 7-3). Last week: San Diego State 72, San Jose State 62 ... San Diego State 76, Air Force 64. This week: vs. Utah State (Tuesday), at Fresno State (Saturday).
5. FRESNO STATE (16-8, 6-5). Last week: Colorado State 65, Fresno State 50. This week: vs. UNLV (Wednesday), vs. San Diego State (Saturday).
6. UTAH STATE (15-11, 6-7). Last week: Wyoming 78, Utah State 76 (OT) ... Nevada 85, Utah State 72. This week: at San Diego State (Tuesday), at Boise State (Saturday).
7. UNLV (14-11, 6-6). Last week: UNLV 78, Air Force 44 ... Boise State 69, UNLV 63. This week: at Fresno State (Wednesday), vs. Colorado State (Saturday).
8. NEVADA (10-13, 4-8). Last week: Colorado State 82, Nevada 72 ... Nevada 85, Utah State 72. This week: vs. San Jose State (Tuesday), at San Jose State (Thursday).
9. NEW MEXICO (10-14, 2-8). Last week: New Mexico 78, Northern New Mexico 46. This week: vs. Wyoming (Tuesday), vs. Colorado State (Thursday), at San Jose State (Sunday).
10. AIR FORCE (10-13, 3-9). Last week: UNLV 78, Air Force 44 ... San Diego State 76, Air Force 64. This week: vs. Boise State (Wednesday), at Wyoming (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (7-17, 0-12). Last week: San Diego State 72, San Jose State 62 ... Wyoming 74, San Jose State 52. This week: at Nevada (Tuesday), vs. Nevada (Thursday), vs. New Mexico (Sunday).