Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 77-63 men’s basketball victory over the Utah State Aggies at Logan, Utah on Tuesday:
JAROD LUCAS: C +
Lucas struggled once again with his shot, missing 6-of-8 attempts. But the veteran shooting guard was a valuable piece to this victory just the same, playing the role of facilitator and filling an important role.
Lucas had four crucial assists to go along with a steal as he took a backseat role. He finished with nine points, going 5-of-6 (all in the second half) from the free-throw line.
Three of his assists were to Nick Davidson on two 3-pointers and a dunk. He also fed Tre Coleman for a layup.
Lucas’ two field goals were a jumper in the paint for a 28-22 lead with four minutes left in the first half and a mid-range shot to close out the scoring in the half, giving the Pack a 36-27 lead.
Lucas’ eight field goal attempts are the fewest he’s taken in a game this season. But it was a good sign that he wasn’t simply forcing up bad shots on a night when plenty of his teammates were on target.
KENAN BLACKSHEAR: A
Blackshear was the heart and soul of this victory, leaving nothing out on the floor during his foul-filled 28 minutes. The veteran point guard had 18 points, four assists and two steals before fouling out with just under a minute to play.
Blackshear, at one stretch, had to sit out nine of 10 minutes (the last 3:17 of the first half and 5:39 of the first 6:39 of the second half) because he picked up his second and third fouls. The Pack was outscored just 19-18 when he was off the floor but when he returned, with 13:21 to go in the second half, he put the game on his back.
Blackshear scored 10 points over the next 12-plus minutes with three assists, two rebounds and two steals. He stole the ball from Isaac Johnson and turned it into a layup for a 56-49 lead with 8:40 to go. His second steal led to two Daniel Foster free throws and a 69-55 lead with 3:32 to play.
He did all that with three fouls to his name. He picked up his fourth foul with 2:45 to go, converted a layup for a 73-58 lead with 1:49 left and then fouled out with 54 seconds remaining.
It was also reassuring for the Pack to see Blackshear go 4-for-4 from the line, where he is just a 64 percent shooter this year. It was his most successful free throws without a miss in a game since he went 10-for-10 against Oregon on Dec. 10, 2022.
NICK DAVIDSON: A +
The 6-8 sophomore has been the best player in the Mountain West since last Friday. Davidson had a career-high 25 points against Utah State to go along with 10 rebounds, two steals and an assist.
That performance was coming off a 22-point, 11-rebound, three-assist showing in a 90-60 win over San Jose State last Friday. Davidson was 10-of-14 from the floor at Utah State and is 18-of-26 over his last two games with 47 points and 21 rebounds.
Davidson, who played a career-high 35 minutes, had 11 points in the first half and 14 in the second half against Utah State. He had 14 points on six layups and a dunk. But he also went 3-of-5 on 3-pointers for the second consecutive game. This efficient Steve Alford-like two-game flurry from long distance was after Davidson was just 11-of-46 (24 percent) on threes for the season.
Davidson had seven points on a 3-pointer, two free throws and a layup over a stretch of 2:17 to give the Pack a 65-55 lead with 5:33 to play. His 3-pointer with 74 seconds to play gave him his career-high 25th point, eclipsing the 22 he had just four nights earlier.
TRE COLEMAN: B +
Coleman played a clean, efficient and productive 30 minutes, doing a little bit of everything to keep the game in the Pack’s control for most of the evening.
The 6-7 senior had eight points, all in the first half, to go along with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Those numbers are all well and good but if you really want to see how much Coleman affected the game, look no further than Utah State’s shooting numbers.
The Aggies, who normally shoot the lights out, especially at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, shot just 39 percent overall and 24 percent on threes. Utah State was just 9-of-29 in the first half from the floor (3-of-14 on threes) as Coleman set the tone for the Pack defense, as he always does.
Coleman was 3-of-5 from the floor himself and made his only 3-pointer and free throw. All of that came in the first half as he took just one shot in the second half when he concentrated on making sure Utah State didn’t get hot and steal the victory.
K.J. HYMES: C -
Hymes, as is usually the case, fought through his demons (constant foul trouble) on Tuesday and continued to work hard when he was able to stay on the floor.
He had a miserable first half that was limited to just two-plus minutes because of two fouls and a turnover. But he was able to squeeze out nine reasonably productive minutes in the second half despite picking up two more fouls.
The 6-10 center scored five points on a dunk, layup and free throw in the first three-plus minutes of the second half, helping the Pack build a 43-34 lead. Hymes, though, played just four of the final 15 minutes.
HUNTER McINTOSH: C +
McIntosh had an uneventful 18 minutes (nine in each half), taking just one shot and handing out an assist without scoring. The 6-3 fifth-year player is just 1-of-16 from the floor for eight points over his last seven games combined.
But scoring is not his focus anymore. The Pack did outscore Utah State 33-26 when McIntosh was on the floor, so he is doing what a veteran backup guard is supposed to do, keeping the game under control while the starting guards get a breather. McIntosh has turned the ball over just nine times all year and just five times over the last 17 games.
DANIEL FOSTER: B
Foster played a key role in the victory, giving the Wolf Pack 26 quality minutes off the bench and doing all of the little things that have made him a favorite of the coaching staff.
He had seven points (5-of-5 from the line), two rebounds and an assist and a block, while avoiding foul trouble (one) and mistakes (just one turnover).
Foster was pressed into duty a lot earlier than normal, stepping on the floor less than two minutes into the game because of K.J. Hymes’ foul trouble. He played nine crucial minutes in a row with the highlight a block on a Josh Uduje layup attempt.
Foster also had a three-point play on a layup and a free throw for a 31-25 lead just 2:48 before halftime. He played 11 minutes in the second half, contributing four free throws.
TYLER ROLISON: B +
Rolison was one of the unsung heroes of the victory, giving the Wolf Pack 17 quality minutes off the bench. The 6-foot freshman contributed five points, four assists and two steals and clearly made his presence known on the floor for all of his 17 minutes.
He was instrumental in helping the Wolf Pack come to life after digging a 15-8 hole with 11:39 to play in the first half. By the time Rolison left the floor just under nine minutes later, the Pack had a 31-25 lead.
Rolison had a steal and a layup for a 21-19 lead with 6:12 left in the first half. Three of his four assists (two in each half) led to Davidson lay-ups.
COACHING: A +
This was one of Steve Alford’s most meaningful victories in his five seasons at Nevada, beating a Top 25 team on the road in one of the toughest places to play on the left side of the country.
Utah State is ranked No. 21 in the coach’s poll and No. 22 in the Associated Press rankings. The win is the first for the Pack against a Top 25 team on the road on the opponent’s own floor since it stunned UNLV, 86-76, on Dec. 10, 1981, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Alford and the Pack beat the Aggies in Logan with a short bench (Tylan Pope sat out with a leg injury) and with one starter (Hymes) battling foul trouble and another (Lucas) struggling with his shot.
The Pack had the perfect plan at both ends of the floor and that plan was never more apparent than when Utah State’s burly (6-8, 240 pounds) forward Great Osobor was involved. Osobor went from Great to Mediocre, struggling at both ends of the floor as Davidson dominated the paint. Osobor picked up four fouls and scored just 11 points and had a mere four rebounds. He was averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds and his four boards equaled his season low.
The emergence of Davidson as a legitimate, consistent and explosive scorer the last two games couldn’t have come at a better time. The Pack, losers of four of its last five games, needed something more and Alford knew exactly where to look. The Pack was relying on Lucas and Blackshear far too much and becoming far too easy to defend and Blackshear and Lucas seemed to be running out of gas.
Davidson’s development has opened up a whole new world for the Pack offense.
OVERALL: A +
The Pack is back. The four losses in five games put the Pack’s NCAA Tournament hopes in serious jeopardy had that disturbing trend continued. It gave the Pack a clear sense of urgency to turn things around.
The win at Utah State not only puts the Pack squarely back in the NCAA Tournament picture but it also puts them back in the Mountain West regular-season title discussion.
What we saw on Tuesday in a hostile environment is the Wolf Pack at its best, going out on the road and punching an opponent in the throat. The Pack dominated this game more than the final 14-point margin might suggest. After falling behind 15-8 eight-plus minutes into the game the Pack crushed the Aggies 69-48 the rest of the way.
The Pack strangled the life out of the Aggies over the final eight minutes to the tune of 21-12 on the Aggies’ own home floor as 8,860 obnoxious Utah State fans sat stunned.
This Pack team at its best is tough, physical, focused and confident. A lot of that was lost in those four losses in five games.
It’s back now.