Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 70-66 men’s basketball overtime victory against the San Diego State Aztecs at Lawlor Events Center on Friday:
JAROD LUCAS: C+
Lucas was brilliant in the first half with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-2 on threes), three rebounds, two assists and a steal. But then he all but disappeared the rest of the game.
The 6-3 shooting guard had just three points and took just three shots in the second half and overtime combined as San Diego State nearly stole a victory it didn’t deserve.
Lucas, fortunately for the Pack, did help salvage his performance with two crucial free throws with 36 seconds left in regulation to help the Pack push the game to overtime. But that was after he missed an important free throw two minutes earlier.
Lucas finished with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal, continuing his rollercoaster performances as of late. He made 2-of-3 threes in the game’s first two-plus minutes and then took just one more (he missed) the rest of the game.
KENAN BLACKSHEAR: B
Blackshear played like his shorts and shoes were on fire for all of his 33 minutes on the floor. He was a little out of control at times and a little erratic at others but when his team needed him the most he was always there.
The 6-6 point guard finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with four rebounds and two steals. But there were also the six turnovers, four fouls, just one assist and a frustrating 6-of-12 performance from the line that also had to be endured.
That assist, though, was on Tre Coleman’s short jumper in the paint that gave the Pack a 68-66 lead with 12 seconds to go in overtime, proving once again the importance and truth of the old baseball adage of “don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it.”
Blackshear came up big with the game on the line in overtime. He scored six consecutive Pack points to turn a 64-60 deficit with 3:52 left in the extra five minutes into a 66-64 lead with 2:21 to go. That, of course, was followed by his two missed free throws with 1:45 to go and a turnover with 1:08 left with the game tied at 66.
It was that kind of rollercoaster night for Blackshear. At one point midway through the first half he had four turnovers in a span of just under seven minutes. So, yes, his rollercoaster was filled with ups and downs and stop-your-heart hairpin turns.
NICK DAVIDSON: C+
Davidson saved the game with an offensive rebound and layup off a missed Blackshear jumper with five seconds to go in regulation to tie the game at 60-60. But he was fouled on the play and missed the free throw that would have won the game.
It was that laugh-one-minute-and-cry-the-next type of game for just about all of the Pack players on Friday and it was certainly no different for Davidson. The 6-8 sophomore had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting with five rebounds but he also had four fouls and three turnovers.
Davidson was at his best in the second half when he had 10 of his 14 points and all five of his rebounds. But he also missed two free throws (with eight minutes and five seconds left) that would have given him valuable 3-point plays.
Davidson came back down to earth somewhat against San Diego State after scoring 47 points over his last two games against San Jose State and Utah State. But one could argue that he was the biggest X-factor in the overtime win and something the Aztecs never could control. In Nevada’s 71-59 loss to San Diego State on Jan. 17, Davidson had just two points.
TRE COLEMAN: C+
Coleman played 40 of the 45 minutes mainly, of course, for his defense. With the ball in his hands he was just 2-of-10 from the floor, missing 5-of-6 threes, for seven points and three turnovers. But there he was with 12 seconds left in overtime, with a 1-for-9 shooting night on his back, hitting a floater in the lane for a 68-66 lead.
Coleman had a frustrating offensive night up until that game-winning shot, though he did have four important assists (one on Blackshear layup that tied the game at 64 in overtime). In addition to going 1-of-6 on threes (three of the misses came in the first 4:32 of the second half) he also missed a layup and two jumpers in the paint.
Coleman, of course, was a big reason why the Aztecs shot just 41 percent from the floor and missed 16-of-19 threes. Defense was the reason why he played 40 minutes.
K.J. HYMES: D+
Hymes is sort of like that three-month-old puppy that, when you open the door to allow him to do his business, he takes a moment to soil the carpet in front of the door before stepping outside.
The 6-foot-10 sixth-year center still can’t figure out how to play without being serenaded by the officials’ whistles. He fouled out with 3:47 to go in regulation after playing just 16 minutes. All five fouls came in his final dozen minutes on the floor the last three in his last three minutes.
Hymes seemed to be getting control of his foul trouble the first two months of the season, getting whistled as many as four times in a game just once in the first dozen games. The last 10 games, though, he’s fouled out three times and had four fouls once.
In between the fouls on Friday Hymes did go 3-for-4 from the line with a rebound and a block.
It must be noted that Hymes’ fifth foul on Friday might have actually saved the Pack. He was replaced on the floor by Davidson (who had three fouls) with 3:47 to go and Davidson had the pivotal offensive rebound and layup with five seconds to play that sent the game to overtime at 60-60.
HUNTER McINTOSH: C
McIntosh was trusted with just nine minutes and he provided two points, a foul, turnover, foul and a rebound. He did connect on a jumper for a 44-40 lead with 10:19 to play in the second half. The field goal was just his second (in 18 attempts) since Jan. 9.
After playing four minutes midway through the first half he played just 4:41 of the final 33 minutes of the game.
DANIEL FOSTER: B+
How much trust does coach Steve Alford have in Foster? Well, the 6-6 Foster was on the floor for the final 3:47 of regulation and the entire five-minute overtime.
Foster played starter minutes (31) off the bench and contributed two points, four assists and six rebounds. The Pack likely loses the game in regulation if not for a pair of offensive rebounds by Foster in the final 77 seconds that led to two free throws each by Coleman and Lucas. Foster also fed Blackshear for a layup that cut the Aztec lead to 64-62 with 3:37 left in overtime. The play ignited a 10-2 Pack run the rest of the game.
Foster had four offensive rebounds for the game, helping lead the Pack to 15 second-chance points (San Diego State had six second-chance points). Foster only took one shot (he missed a layup but got the offensive rebound) and his two points came on a pair of free throws for a 10-3 lead seven minutes into the game.
TYLER ROLISON: B-
Rolison played 18 minutes (none in overtime) and gave the Pack four points, two assists and two steals. He hit a jumper for a 30-27 halftime lead with 37 seconds left and his steal and layup gave the Pack a 40-36 lead with 12 minutes left in the second half.
He assisted on a Lucas jumper late in the first half and a McIntosh jumper midway through the second half. The 6-foot freshman from Los Angeles was the first guard off the bench and is gaining more and more of Alford’s trust each game.
JAZZ GARDNER: Incomplete
Gardner came off the bench with 3:40 to play in the first half when Davidson picked up his second foul. The 7-foot freshman took a pass from Coleman and connected on a jumper in the paint for a 28-24 lead with 1:17 left in the half. He also, however, missed two free throws with two seconds left in the half and sat the bench the rest of the game.
Steve Alford was masterful in dragging his inconsistent team across the finish line on Friday against arguably the grittiest team in the conference. Nobody on the roster played all that well on a consistent basis but Alford remained true to the plan as he always does, kept his confidence in his team and they rewarded him in the end.
It was Rocky Balboa somehow pulling himself to his feet at the count of nine in Rocky II with Apollo Creed remaining on the canvas. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down as long as you are standing at the end.
The Wolf Pack, which missed 10-of-13 3-pointers and an alarming 13-of-32 free throws, beat the Aztecs at their own game with clutch shots at the right time and never giving up at both ends of the floor.
The Pack also turned the ball over 16 times and forced the Aztecs into 16. It was ugly for both teams, Mountain West basketball at its finest. There was nothing pretty about it.
When the Pack lost 71-59 at San Diego State on Jan. 17, they missed 17-of-23 threes. They seemed on the same path on Friday, missing 10-of-13. But Alford finally had seen enough and had his team attack the paint for 30 points. The Pack attempted just one 3-pointer over the game’s final 20 minutes while the Aztecs, who were even worse from long distance on Friday, kept firing up from beyond the arc even in the overtime (0-for-3).
The Wolf Pack probably should have won this game in regulation by double digits. The Pack missed 11 free throws over the first and second half combined (and two more in overtime).
But this game, maybe more than any this season, should make Pack fans proud of this silver-and-blue-collar group of players. The Pack out-toughed the Aztecs, wore them down and never backed down even on a night when there were just as many frustrating moments as pump-your-fist-in-the-air-and-yell moments.
The Pack is now 19-5, 6-4 in the Mountain West, coming off of back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams (Utah State on the road and San Diego State at home). What we saw on Friday is how championship-type teams win in the dog days of February.
It’s not about looking pretty. Leave all those style points for back in November and December against Sacramento State, Pacific and Portland. This was a street fight.