Grades: Pack sends everyone home with a smile

Nevada’s Darrion Williams is guarded by Air Force’s Jeffrey Mills during their game Feb. 3, 2023 at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada’s Darrion Williams is guarded by Air Force’s Jeffrey Mills during their game Feb. 3, 2023 at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada Athletics

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 72-52 men’s basketball victory over the Air Force Falcons on Friday at Lawlor Events Center:



That explosion you heard Friday night out on north Virginia Street? Oh, that was just Jarod Lucas erupting and destroying the Air Force Falcons, making sure the Pack didn’t suffer an embarrassing home loss. The Lucas missile was basically dormant for nearly the first 30 minutes of the game as the Pack led just 40-39 with 11:24 to play. But that’s precisely when the Lucas mushroom cloud appeared above Lawlor Events Center.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard at that moment drained a huge 3-pointer to give the Pack a 43-39 lead and proceeded to score 14 points in a span of just under seven minutes for a 62-44 lead with 4:44 to go. Lucas finished with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting on three 3-pointers and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. He also had a pair of assists and his most rebounds (five) since he had six against Tulane in late November.

What we saw on Friday was simply a veteran scorer telling his teammates, “Relax. I got this.” You know, the exact reason why the Pack stole him from Oregon State in the first place.


Blackshear was the complete opposite of Lucas on Friday. The senior point guard was solid for roughly the first 24 minutes, scoring nine points with four assists. But Blackshear then hit a jumper for a 37-28 lead with 16 minutes to go, was sent to the bench 30 seconds later and, well, disappeared at just about the time that Lucas caught fire.

Blackshear came back to the court with 14 minutes to go and would score just one more point the rest of the way to finish with 10. His evening seemed to go sour after he missed 3-of-4 free throws in a span of just 43 seconds as the Pack led just 40-39 with 11:46 to play. He would take just one shot the rest of the game, missing a layup with 3:18 left. All four of his assists came in the first half as did three of his four rebounds. His highlight was a furious nine seconds that saw him miss two layups, grab two offensive rebounds, get fouled and then drain two free throws for a 19-15 lead with 6:09 to go before the half.


Baker’s numbers, as expected, were certainly impressive against the pint-sized Falcons with 17 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes on 8-of-10 shooting. He made his last seven shots from the floor, six of which were dunks or layups. But this is what the 7-foot Baker does against Air Force. No Falcon, after all, stood within four inches of him and most were a half a foot shorter. Baker did basically the same thing to Air Force on Dec. 31 with 16 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting in 26 minutes. The Pack’s Gulliver, after all, has thrived this year destroying the Mountain West’s Lilliputians. Six of Baker’s points and five of his rebounds on Friday came in the first five minutes of the second half, helping give the Pack a 39-29 lead.

But the Pack separated itself from the Falcons late in the second half by beating them at their own game, with small ball. Baker went to the bench with 8:26 to play and the Pack up just 50-46. By the time Too Tall Baker stepped back on the court four minutes later the Pack was up 62-47 and cruising. Baker pumped up his final numbers with five points in the final four minutes.


Coleman scored just three points in 31 minutes and also had three assists that led to eight more points. Two of the assists came on Lucas 3-pointers just 2:26 apart, giving the Pack leads of 43-39 and 50-46 with 8:58 to go. He also had a block and a steal in the first five minutes of the game, sending a message to the Falcons that points would be hard to come by. Coleman’s offensive wheels, though, fell off slightly in the first three-plus minutes of the second half when he took two threes just 92 seconds part and missed them both, a remnant from his three 3-pointer performance against San Diego State three nights earlier. After misfiring twice on threes early in the second half Coleman was sent to the bench 34 seconds later for a three-minute rest. He came back and missed a layup four seconds later and didn’t take another shot the rest of the game. It must be noted that Air Force scored just 13 points in the 15 minutes that Coleman played in the second half.


The freshman turned into a point guard on Friday, handing out a career-high seven assists. Five of his assists came in the second half, leading to four easy layups (three by Baker). Williams also assisted on a Baker dunk in the first half as the 6-6 Williams realized early that flipping easy passes over the short Falcons to the 7-foot Baker was a pretty good idea. The Pack, after all, outscored Air Force 34-16 in the paint. Williams, coming off a scoreless performance in 23 minutes against San Diego State, finished with five points and six rebounds in his 33 minutes.



The 6-8 freshman did something on Friday that no Pack player has done since the team moved to the Mountain West in 2012-13. Davidson scored 10 points on just one shot from the floor becoming the first Pack player in the Mountain West era to score in double figures on one or fewer shots. Davidson was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line (6-of-6 in the second half) to go along with five rebounds. He scored eight consecutive Pack points in just under three minutes down the stretch in the second half, turning a 50-46 lead with 8:26 to go into a commanding 58-46 lead with 5:35 to go. This is the first time Davidson has scored in double figures since he had 17 at San Diego State on Jan. 10.


Pettigrew played just seven minutes (actually 7:46) and scored three points. He played five-plus minutes in the first half, blocked a shot by Air Force’s Carter Murphy in the paint and missed a 3-pointer. He’s now 1-of-10 on threes over his last 11 appearances and 8-of-34 on the year. The 6-3 freshman didn’t get on the floor in the second half until everything was decided with 2:17 to play. He did, however, convert a 3-pont play with 48 seconds left to complete the Pack scoring and finishing with the same amount of points (three), field goals (one) and blocks (one) that Coleman had in 24 more minutes.


Foster played 12 cover-your-eyes minutes, scored just one point with two rebounds, missed his only shot and one of his two free throws, was called for two fouls and turned the ball over twice. And, of course, the Pack was outscored 22-14 when he was on the floor.


Powell was on the floor, officially, for nine minutes (actually 8:40) and quickly made his presence known. He had a pair of free throws and a layup in his first 72 seconds to tie the game at 10-10 with 11:16 left in the first half. But then his wheels fell off. Those productive first 72 seconds were followed a minute or so later by a pair of fouls just nine seconds apart. All of his numbers took place in his two-plus minutes in the first half.


Wigington, a member of the Pack’s All-Time Name Team along with, among others, Thaxter Arterberry, Dino Belluomini, Buddy Garfinkle, Dimitrios Marmarinos and Stelios Papafloratos, played just 76 seconds. But that was more than enough time for the 5-foot-8 freshman to miss a 3-pointer and two free throws. But the son of Pookey and brother to Wookey, Tookey and Zookey (you can look it up), has played just five minutes all year so he’s allowed to miss a shot now and then.


Coach Steve Alford unleashed Baker on the vertically-challenged Falcons for easy buckets, restored confidence in Davidson’s offense off the bench and reminded Lucas at just the right time why he was in Reno. It all paid off in an easy win over a Mountain West also-ran, though it was much more difficult than it should have been for the first 30 minutes or so. But Alford brought everyone back to reality with the game on the line as the Pack once again played a near-perfect second half, holding Air Force to 24 points on 31 percent shooting and forcing the Falcons into eight turnovers on defense while draining 54 percent of its own shots.


The Pack, which beat San Diego State just 72 hours earlier, seemed bored for the most part on Friday. But whenever Air Force steps on the floor it always has a Washington Generals-against-the-Harlem Globetrotters feel to it. You kept waiting for some of those old Bill and Eric Musselman “Sweet Georgia Brown” records to start playing. And we definitely saw the perfect Generals-Globetrotters script come to life on Friday, complete with the Falcons’ bumbling and fumbling in the second half and the Pack making shot after shot. All that matters, like any good Globetrotters performance, is that in the end we got the show we were looking for. The bucket of confetti came out, the ball was on a giant rubber band and Jarod “Meadowlark” Lucas started flipping in shots from all over the court. The Pack won by 20 and we all got 76 seconds of Snookey Time in the end and went home with a smile.


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