Basketball Grades: Pack impressive in win over Portland

Nevada head coach Steve Alford against Kansas on Dec. 29, 2021, in Lawrence, Kan.

Nevada head coach Steve Alford against Kansas on Dec. 29, 2021, in Lawrence, Kan.
Charlie Riedel/AP

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 108-83 men’s basketball victory over the Portland Pilots at Lawlor Events Center on Saturday . . .

Jarod Lucas finally caught on fire. Lucas, who missed 28-of-39 shots from the floor and 15-of-19 3-pointers through the Wolf Pack’s first three games, was red hot in Game 4 on Saturday night.The Pack shooting guard was 9-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-8 on threes and scored a career-high 30 points. He also was 6-of-6 from the line and has now made his last 29 free throws dating back to the Mountain West tournament against San Jose State last March.Lucas, who also had three assists and didn’t turn the ball over, had 13 points in the first half and another 17 in the second half. He made his first three 3-point shots in the first five-plus minutes of the game.He scored eight points in a span of under two minutes late in the second half to get to the 30-point plateau for the first time in his five-year career. His previous career high was 28, accomplished three times last year in his first season at Nevada. He had 27 against USC on Jan. 13, 2022 for Oregon State.

Kenan Blackshear was a tornado that simply whipped right through the Portland Pilots. Blackshear had 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 11 assists, seven rebounds, a block, three fouls and four turnovers all in just 30 minutes. The 11 assists are Blackshear’s career high and the double-double is the fifth of his five-year career (with one triple-double). The 6-6 point guard is in his third season with the Pack after playing his first two years with Florid Atlantic.Blackshear had five assists and 10 points in the first half and six assists and four points in the second half. His 11 assists led to 27 points, meaning he was directly connected to 41 Pack points.

The 6-9 sophomore made the most of his 20 minutes and then some, scoring 13 points with eight rebounds and four assists. Davidson was a near-perfect 6-of-7 from the floor and made his only 3-point attempt for a 58-47 lead less than two minutes into the second half.Davidson scored seven points in the first three-plus minutes of the second half on a dunk, 3-pointer and layup for a 64-53 lead. He later had layups three minutes apart to finish with 11 points in the second half.Davidson has clearly adjusted well to his new role this season as a starter. His four assists against Portland is his career high (two seasons). A year ago coming off the bench he had just 14 assists all season.

The 6-7 fourth-year senior turned in one of his best offensive nights of his career, scoring 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting with two threes and three assists and a block.The 15 points are the second most he’s had in his career behind the 22 he scored against Wyoming late last season. Coleman was also 5-of-5 from the line, the second-most successful free throws he’s ever had in game without a miss behind an 8-of-8 performance against New Mexico his freshman year.Coleman’s two 3-pointers gave the Pack leads of 41-33 late in the first half and 79-60 midway through the second half. He had a 3-point play for a 69-56 lead with 15 minutes to play.

Hymes played just 10 minutes, scoring four points with three rebounds, an assist, turnover and four fouls.His shining moment on Saturday was a flurry of four seconds when he had a layup, missed a free throw, grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a short jumper in the paint for an 85-63 lead with 10 minutes to play.


McIntosh’s shot disappeared on Saturday as he missed all five of his 3-pointers (he didn’t take a shot inside the 3-point arc).The 6-3 point guard, though, handed out five assists and didn’t turn the ball over in his 20 minutes.The five assists are McIntosh’s best in a Nevada uniform the last two seasons, though he’s played just 10 games in those two seasons because of a knee injury last year.McIntosh, who played his first three years at Elon, had a career-best 10 assists against James Madison on Jan. 25, 2020 and had seven assists three times with the Phoenix.

That explosion you heard coming out of Lawlor Events Center Saturday night was just a 7-foot freshman center making his presence known.Gardner, from Pasadena, Calif., was on the floor for just 11 minutes with less than three of those minutes in the second half.The Pilots had no clue how to stop Gardner when he was on the floor. Gardner had 13 points, a block and three rebounds in his actual 10:27 of playing time.The only thing that limited him to those 10-plus minutes was four fouls.Gardner scored six points on two short jumpers and a dunk within the first two minutes after he stepped on the floor for the first time. He then had a dunk and a 3-pointer just 30 seconds apart later in the first half.

The 6-6 fourth-year senior had his best game in a Nevada uniform, setting his career high for points (14) and rebounds (9).Foster also had three assists and made 4-of-6 shots from the floor in his 25 minutes. He had 3-pointers for leads of 25-19 midway through the first half and 51-40 just a minute before halftime.His nine rebounds, as well as his three offensive rebounds, led the Pack.His assists, all in the first half, led to a Tyler Rolison 3-pointer, a Nick Davidson layup and a Jazz Gardner dunk.Foster’s only struggles on Saturday came at the free throw line as he missed 5-of-9.

The 6-foot freshman from Los Angeles gave the Pack a solid 17 minutes with five points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal.Rolison hit a 3-pointer for a 28-23 lead with nine minutes left in the first half and a pair of free throws for a 91-66 lead with seven minutes left in the game.

Coleman played five minutes and Robinson got three minutes. Coleman missed a pair of shots but had three rebounds. Robinson had a rebound and a foul.

Steve Alford has his team at 4-0, winning by an average of 24 points each game.Nobody is in a slump, everyone’s confidence seems high and the Pack’s young bench, thanks to all of the easy victories, is getting valuable early-season minutes.Alford has done everything perfectly so far. And that includes the schedule. The Pack will end up playing six of their first seven games at home and now won’t have to leave Reno until Dec. 9 against Drake in the Jack Jones Classic in Henderson.Alford’s biggest challenge now is to make sure his team stays sharp over an 11-day break through the Thanksgiving holiday. The Pack won’t step back on the floor until Nov. 29 against Montana at home.That 11-day break might turn out to be his only mistake in November. He certainly hasn’t made one on the court so far.

The Wolf Pack also started off strong a year ago, winning its first five games and seven of its first eight. That team finished 22-11 and went to the NCAA Tournament.This year’s 4-0 start, though, might be even more impressive. Is anybody all that worried now about Darrion Williams and Will Baker leaving the team after last year?Is anybody worried about anything right now? You shouldn’t be, other than making sure you get tickets to get inside Lawlor Events Center the next three-plus months.The Pack followed up a 49-point win over Pacific on Wednesday with a 25-point win over Portland on Saturday. And that was after an impressive seven-point win at Washington on Nov. 12.That’s a pretty nice week.This Wolf Pack team might be the deepest Alford has had since he came to Nevada in 2019-20. And all of them have already contributed something. The starters are building the leads and the bench is extending them.The first four games could not have gone better for the Pack. But it’s the next 10, leading up to the Mountain West season (starting Jan. 6 at Fresno State) that will give us a better understanding of just how good this team can be this year.


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