Grades: Baker stays hot, Pack runs away from Spartans

Nevada's Will Baker against San Jose State in Reno on Feb. 21, 2023

Nevada's Will Baker against San Jose State in Reno on Feb. 21, 2023
Nevada Athletics

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 66-51 men’s basketball victory over the San Jose State Spartans on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center:



The Wolf Pack’s normally dependable shooting guard has hit a wall. Lucas was 1-of-9 from the floor and scored just three points. He missed a layup and three short jumpers in the paint. The three points are his fewest since he also had three last season on Dec. 2, 2021 against Cal when he was with Oregon State. Lucas did feed Kevin Blackshear and Tre Coleman for 3-pointers and had three rebounds so he didn’t spend all of his 27 minutes off in some corner wondering where to find his jump shot. He played 11 minutes in the second half (just 4:53 of the final 13:34), didn’t score and took just one shot. It wasn’t that long ago the Pack was afraid to take him off the floor in the second half. Lucas is 4-of-19 from the floor for 11 points over his last two games. He’s too good a shooter for this to last much longer.


Blackshear did just enough to help the Wolf Pack grind out this less-than-inspiring win. He scored 12 points on efficient 5-of-7 shooting and also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. He muddled through the first half with just five points, two rebounds, no assists and a pair of fouls, playing just 12:37. In the second half the Blackshear who Pack fans have grown to love returned. He played 16-plus minutes, scoring seven points with five boards and three assists. San Jose State, though, kept him off the free-throw line for the most part (1-of-3), a tactic that most teams in the Mountain West are now adopting. This is just the fourth Pack win this year (4-4) when Blackshear has had fewer than four free-throw attempts. When he gets four or more the Pack is 17-3.


This time, Baker saved his best for last. The Wolf Pack center, who scored the Pack’s first 22 points in a 75-66 loss at Utah State last Saturday, caught fire again on Tuesday in the final nine minutes. Baker scored 12 Pack points in a row in a span of just under five minutes, turning a 46-42 lead into a 58-48 advantage with four minutes to go. Against Utah State it was six 3-pointers that keyed his 22-point explosion in the first five minutes. Against San Jose State the 12 points came on three layups, two free throws and a couple jumpers in the paint. Baker finished Tuesday with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and five rebounds.


Coleman was on the floor for a team-high 34 minutes and supplied seven points, three assists, a block and a steal. But he also limited San Jose State’s Omari Moore to 13 points. Moore had scored 22 or more points in seven of his previous 13 games, but missed 10-of-15 shots against the Pack and Coleman. Coleman blocked a Moore shot with 3:36 to go and then stole the ball from the 6-6 Spartan guard less than two minutes later to seal the Pack win. Baker’s game-deciding 12-point run beginning with just under nine minutes to go also started and ended on layups off Coleman assists.


Williams basically took over the game in the first 10 minutes of the second half, keeping the Pack in the game and setting the stage for Baker’s hot streak. After a dismal first half (10 minutes, no points, one rebound), Williams never left the floor in the second half, scoring 14 points with four rebounds, two steals and an assist. A dozen of his points came in a stretch of just over eight minutes. At times he was doing it all. He had an offensive rebound that led to his 3-pointer a minute into the second half, a steal and layup a minute later, a jumper with 15:29 left, another steal that led to his own layup with 13:50 to go and a huge 3-pointer for a 43-42 lead with 10:44 to play. Williams scored 12 of the Pack’s 19 points that turned a 28-24 deficit into a 43-42 lead. After that Baker caught fire and Williams helped with an assist on a Blackshear layup with 9:36 left and a pair of free throws for a 60-48 lead with 3:16 left.



Davidson somehow missed five layups and made his only 3-pointer to finish with six points (3-of-4 free throws) in 15 minutes. The 6-8 freshman, though, never stopped working hard with a pair of rebounds, a block and a steal. The Pack outscored San Jose State 20-16 with Davidson on the floor.


Foster gave the Pack a solid 19 minutes (actually 18:35) with three rebounds, two points and an assist. He had a dunk off a pass from Blackshear for a 40-39 lead with 12:30 to play and assisted on a Baker short jumper and a 52-45 lead with 7:13 left. Foster played nearly 12 of the final 14 minutes of the first half when the Pack was searching for some consistency. The Pack outscored San Jose State 14-9 during Foster’s six-plus minutes in the second half.


Powell played just seven minutes, but the Pack was outscored 18-8 when he was on the floor. Much of that deficit (15-7) took place during Powell’s six first-half minutes. He didn’t play in the second half until there was just 75 seconds left in the game. But he did find the time to turn the ball over once.


McIntosh’s long-awaited Wolf Pack debut consisted of 11 minutes, two assists and no points. But the 6-2 point guard transfer from Elon is just getting warmed up. McIntosh, injured until Tuesday, had 219 3-pointers in three years at Elon, averaging 13.2 points and 2.8 assists. He took just two shots on Tuesday (one three) and had assists on a Davidson 3-pointer and a Baker jumper. If he finds his jump shot before the year ends the Pack can reach the next level.


Pettigrew simply dominated the final seconds of each half, with a layup at the halftime buzzer and another layup with six seconds to go in the game. He was the only Pack player to average a point a minute (four in four minutes). How often the 6-3 freshman gets on the floor the rest of the season remains to be seen now that McIntosh will need minutes.


Steve Alford’s halftime speech apparently was a lot more effective on Tuesday than it was three nights earlier at Utah State when the Pack blew a 15-point lead at the break. Down 28-24 at the half on Tuesday, Alford waited patiently until his Wolf Pack finally remembered how to score, burying San Jose State 26-9 over the final 10:44. How patient was Alford? Well, the Pack was 5-of-26 from the floor and scored 19 points in the second half at Utah State and followed that up with 24 points and 8-of-26 shooting in the first half on Tuesday. That’s a disturbing 40 straight minutes that saw the Pack score just 43 points on 13-of-52 shooting. It’s a wonder Alford’s head didn’t explode. But Alford’s never-ending belief in this team finally paid dividends midway through the second half. This wasn’t, by any means, a Wolf Pack work of art. But then Baker got hot and everything was all right once again in the Wolf Pack world.


Lawlor Events Center, where the home team is now 14-0 this season, certainly played a big role in the Pack winning this game. The Pack played the majority of Tuesday’s game (about the first 30 minutes) like it was still in a daze from what happened last Saturday at Utah State. But once the Pack realized it was playing at Lawlor’s friendly confines (and even friendlier officials) and the opponent was San Jose State, well, the fog finally lifted. San Jose State had just two free throw attempts the entire game, but don’t blame (or credit) the officials for all of that. San Jose State simply didn’t seem to want many free throws, jacking up 33 3-pointers (just 22 shots inside the arc). And it wasn’t like they were finding any success from long distance, making just 10. In two games against the Pack this year, San Jose State was just 16-of-57 on threes and 5-of-12 at the line and scored just 91 points. The Pack defense is good but not that good (as we saw on Saturday in Logan, Utah). The Spartans rarely ventured into the paint with any aggressiveness on offense or defense. The Pack outscored San Jose State 34-20 in the paint after getting outscored in the paint 36-12 at Utah State. What changed? The Pack learned that 66 points will get you a 9-point loss at Utah State and three nights later it gets you a 15-point win at home against San Jose State. Thank you, Lawlor Events Center. You, too, Spartans.



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