Grades: Pack’s ‘Fab Four’ saves the day vs. SDSU

Wolf Pack guard Kenan Blackshear, shown earlier this season, had 18 points and seven assists against San Diego State.

Wolf Pack guard Kenan Blackshear, shown earlier this season, had 18 points and seven assists against San Diego State.
Nevada Athletics

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 75-66 men’s basketball victory over the San Diego State Aztecs on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center:



The Aztecs tugged on Superman’s cape and spit into the Northern Nevada wind. The tug and flying saliva came in the form of an aggressive foul near the Pack bench just four minutes into the game. The Aztecs, leading 11-4, would quickly learn they should have left well enough alone. After cooler heads prevailed on both benches, the Aztecs’ Darrion Trammell was called for a technical foul and Jarod Lucas sank both free throws. Lucas would score nine points in the next four-plus minutes, giving the Pack a 16-14 lead and teaching the Aztecs that you don’t mess around with Jarod. Lucas, who stands about 6-foot-3, was a jump-shootin’ son of a gun against the Aztecs, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting. It is the third-most points scored against San Diego State this year behind New Mexico’s Jaelen House (29) and UC Irvine’s D.J. Davis (28). It was also Lucas’ best scoring effort since his 28 points against Air Force on New Year’s Eve. He was 7-of-8 from the line, making two crucial free throws for a 69-64 lead with 1:09 to go and another two to close the scoring with three seconds left. Lucas played the entire second half (the last 28 minutes of the game), sitting out just 2:19 midway through the first half. When the Pack needed a big bucket, Lucas delivered all night long. He tied the game at 12-12 with a 3-pointer and hit 2-pointers to tie it at 26-26 and 30-30 and for leads of 53-52 and 61-60 with 4:10 left. This was his sixth 20-point game of the year and 15th of his four-year career (the first three at Oregon State). But it was his first 20-plus point game when he had just one (1-of-4) 3-pointer. Lucas, who had 14 points in the first half and a dozen in the second half, was a deadly 8-of-10 from inside the arc.


The Pack point guard was efficient, productive and all over the court. Blackshear scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting and handed out seven assists, six in the second half. After sitting out three minutes midway through the second half, Blackshear came back and dominated, scoring eight points and dishing out two assists in the final eight minutes. All seven of his assists either tied the game (twice), gave the Pack the lead (twice) or extended a lead (three times). And Blackshear didn’t play favorites with his assists. He fed Tre Coleman for two 3-pointers, Jarod Lucas for three jumpers and Will Baker for a dunk and short jumper. Blackshear missed his last shot in the first half and three of his first four in the second half. But when he came back from his three-minute breather, he drained three shots in a row in a span of six-plus minutes.


Will Baker returned to the Wolf Pack offense on Tuesday. The 6-11 center, who scored just two points in 19 minutes in a loss at UNLV on Saturday, pushed the Aztecs around to the tune of 19 points and nine rebounds. He fell just one rebound short of his first double-double of the year and third of his three-year career. Baker was a force, especially in the second half, scoring 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and going 5-of-5 from the line. He was 7-of-7 on the night from the line, setting a career record for his most successful free throws without a miss. Baker scored eight points in the final 6:24 with the game on the line, on a dunk, a jumper in the paint and four free throws. Baker cleaned the glass, ran the floor and scored at key moments. He pulled down a Matt Bradley miss and went to the other end of the floor for a layup 18 seconds later for an 18-14 lead. He had an offensive rebound off a Lucas miss and put back a layup for a 20-18 lead. He missed a jumper in the paint, grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and drained both free throws to cut the Aztecs’ lead to 26-24 with five minutes left in the opening half. Early in the second half, he missed a jumper in the paint, grabbed the offensive rebound, made the layup, was fouled and completed the 3-point play for a 38-33 lead with 16:38 to go.


The Aztecs, it seemed, were more than happy to allow Tre Coleman to fire up 3-pointers. And the 6-7 Pack guard was thrilled to make them. Coleman’s three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the second half gave the Pack leads of 35-33, 45-42 and 48-44. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting (all from downtown) for his most points and threes since he had 13 points and four threes against Tulane on Nov. 21. He now has 14 games with 10 or more points in his three-year Pack career. Coleman played 39 of the 40 minutes and also had three blocks, three rebounds, two assists and a steal. It is his most blocks (he swatted away shots by Matt Bradley twice and Lamont Butler once) since he had three against William Jessup on Nov. 15. Coleman’s defense was instrumental in Bradley missing 8-of-14 shots and only getting to the line for one free throw. Coleman didn’t score at all himself in his 19 first-half minutes, missing two threes. Coleman opened the second half with his three threes and also came up big at the line, hitting two free throws for a 59-57 lead with 4:48 left.


Williams picked up two fouls in the first five-plus minutes of the game and, well, never really recovered. He was sent to the bench after that second foul and ended up playing just eight-plus minutes in the first half without scoring and not pulling down a single rebound. Williams did manage to play 15-plus minutes in the second half with four rebounds and a steal, but his first-half frustrations continued in the second half. The 6-6 freshman went scoreless in his 23 minutes for the first time in his career (he’s had three two-point games) and only had four rebounds to go along with four fouls. His best offensive moment came when he pulled down a rebound and fed Coleman for a 3-pointer and a 48-44 lead with 10:13 to play. His best defensive moment came when he stole the ball from Nathan Mensah with 62 seconds to play and the Pack up 69-64. That steal led to a pair of Baker free throws 21 seconds later. Williams has been called for a combined 13 fouls over the last three games.



Davidson had to endure arguably the most frustrating performance of his freshman year on Tuesday. The 6-8 forward fouled out in just 13 minutes and didn’t score a point with two rebounds. That was in stark contrast to the 17 points and seven rebounds he put up against San Diego State on Jan. 10 in San Diego, though he also struggled to avoid the officials that night, too, with four fouls. Davidson played just five minutes in the second half on Tuesday and was called for three fouls. This is the second game this year that he has gone scoreless and the second time he has fouled out. The one shot he took on Tuesday (a missed layup with 11:28 left in the first half) represents the fewest shots he’s taken in a game this year.


The 6-3 freshman played just two minutes (actually just 1:39), picked up a foul and was sent to the bench with 6:21 to go in the first half and was never seen on the floor again. The two official minutes is his fewest of the year and he was unable to get off at least one shot for the first time this year.


Foster played just 10 minutes, with the bulk of it (6:28) coming midway through the first half. He missed his only shot with a minute to go in the first half and was 1-of-2 at the line in the second half, giving the Pack a 49-47 lead with 9:08 to play. He was then sent directly to the bench where he had a front-row view of the Pack victory for the rest of the game.


Powell played five minutes in the first half, pulled down a rebound and missed a jumper in the paint and came back in the second half for two more minutes, simply to give Darrion Williams a short break.


Alford beat one of the best teams on the West Coast on Tuesday (the Associated Press had the Aztecs at No. 22) without a bench. One of his starters (Darrion Williams) also failed to score a single point. Alford called on his bench for just 32 minutes and it responded by scoring one whole point. Starters Lucas, Baker, Blackshear and Coleman, fortunately for the Pack, all avoided foul trouble, playing between 32 and 39 minutes and scoring between 11 and 26 points. The Fab Four combined to go 25-of-44 from the floor (57 percent) and 19-of-21 from the line. They all played between 17 and 20 minutes in the second half. Alford clearly played his bench a bit too much (64 minutes) in the 68-62 loss at UNLV just three nights earlier. All that did was save everyone the embarrassment of fouling out. It didn’t win the game. On Tuesday, Alford was determined to win the game.


OK, go ahead and call it Lawlor-palooza. The Pack has clearly transformed the circular cement monstrosity on North Virginia Street into a festival of fun this season. The 17-6, 7-3 Pack, which drew a crowd of 9,357 on Tuesday, is now the only undefeated team in the Mountain West at home at 11-0. The win on Tuesday gives the Pack two victories in a row at home against Top 25 teams, combined with the 97-94 double-overtime win over No. 25 New Mexico last Monday. Of course, it is the first time in school history the Pack has even played two games in a row at home against Top 25 teams. But Lawlor-palooza is magical just the same and it’s time we embrace it. The Wolf Pack basically played a near-perfect second half, outscoring the Aztecs 47-36. The Pack also shot 65 percent in the second half (15-of-23) and made 14-of-15 free throws. None of this, of course, would have happened in San Diego. It didn't even happen on Saturday at UNLV. The Pack now has a great chance at going undefeated at home this year with just Air Force (this Friday), Fresno State (Feb. 10), San Jose State (Feb. 21) and UNLV (March 4) remaining on the home schedule. Believe in Lawlor-palooza, Pack fans. It’s real.


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