Grades: Pack’s title hopes could be gone following one-point loss

New Mexico’s Donovan Dent (2) looks to slow down Pack guard Kenan Blackshear (13) as he brings the ball downcourt. Nevada dropped an 83-82 thriller Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.

New Mexico’s Donovan Dent (2) looks to slow down Pack guard Kenan Blackshear (13) as he brings the ball downcourt. Nevada dropped an 83-82 thriller Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 83-82 men’s basketball loss to the New Mexico Lobos at Lawlor Events Center on Tuesday:




Lucas scored 19 points and did a lot of positive things for the Pack. He hit a 3-pointer to start the Pack’s comeback with 6:25 to play and drained three free throws for an 80-77 lead with 1:43 to go. His six points in the final five minutes of the first half prevented the Wolf Pack from getting blown out by halftime (it was 45-35 New Mexico and probably should have been a whole lot worse).

Lucas was 6-of-13 from the floor, including four misses in a row over a span of four-plus minutes early in the second half. If anything, Lucas should have shot the ball a lot more often. He took just two shots in the final 10 minutes, making them both, and made three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt (on what could have been a critical mistake by New Mexico’s Jaelen House).

Lucas had two steals (both in the second half) with the second one leading to a layup by Nick Davidson as the Pack cut the deficit to just 71-69 with 5:23 to play. Lucas will never be a guy that fills up the stat sheet (he had just two rebounds and two assists) but he gave the Pack a productive and efficient performance.


Blackshear was solid all game long, giving the Pack a productive and meaningful 34 minutes. The veteran point guard scored 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds, seven assists and a steal.

Blackshear had his opportunities to be the hero, but he missed two free throws with 3:38 to play, a jumper with 49 seconds left and a short jumper in the paint as time expired. Any one of the three would have won the game.

But Blackshear was the biggest reason the Pack even had a chance to steal the victory in the final minutes. He connected on two free throws to tie the game at 71-71 with 4:43 to go and had three assists in the final 6:25. His jumper with 2:27 to go gave the Pack a 77-75 lead.

Blackshear and forward Nick Davidson had a special connection on Tuesday. Five of Blackshear’s seven assists led to three Davidson layups and two dunks.

Blackshear had just one pronounced lull during the game. He missed a layup and committed two turnovers in a span of under two minutes as New Mexico went on a 10-0 run to take a 62-52 lead with 11:34 to play.


Davidson was outstanding when the Pack needed him the most, scoring eight points in the final 5:23 to almost pull off the comeback victory. The 6-8 sophomore had 12 of his 19 points in the second half with all 19 of his points coming on layups (six), dunks (two) and free throws (three).

The only time Davidson, a 27 percent shooter from long distance this year, fell off the rails a bit was when he took four threes and missed them all. All three of his misses in the second half were on threes. But simply taking those threes likely opened things up for him in the paint, where he did all of his damage.

Davidson was obviously determined on Tuesday to make up for a six-point performance in an 89-55 loss at New Mexico on Jan. 28. He was 8-of-15 from the floor and also blocked two shots and pulled down seven rebounds.

He’s now scored 80 points in his last four games combined and has become one of the best and most consistent offensive players in the paint in the Mountain West.


Coleman, who had his hands full on defense against the high-scoring Lobos, managed just five points, three assists, three rebounds and a steal in his 29 minutes.

The 6-7 versatile forward only took three shots (two less than Hunter McIntosh in 15 bench minutes). He hit a jumper 11 seconds into the second half and a 3-pointer with four minutes left in the first half.

It was his defense, though, that led to four Pack points and a 52-52 tie with just under 15 minutes to play. His steal with 16:24 to go and his rebound with 14:48 left paved the way for two Davidson dunks.

Coleman, who had just seven points in 33 minutes at New Mexico in late January, was a non-factor over the final 14-plus minutes on Tuesday. He was relegated to the bench for seven-plus consecutive minutes starting with 13:26 to play and didn’t return to the floor until there was just 6:03 to play and the Pack trailing 71-65. The only time he showed up on the stat sheet over the final 14:48 was on a rebound with 3:15 to go.


The Wolf Pack probably could have used a few more minutes from Hymes on Tuesday. The 6-10 center, who has battled nagging foul trouble his entire six-year career, turned in one of the most productive performances in recent weeks.

Hymes played 21 minutes, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He committed just two fouls and the Pack outscored the Lobos 46-43 while he was on the floor. Hymes’ dunk cut the Lobo lead to 63-54 with 11:16 to play and his 3-point play (layup, free throw) cut it to 66-62 with eight minutes left.

Hymes did not play the final 5:28 of the first half and the last 6:03 of the second half, likely because the Pack feared him fouling every Lobo that came into his area code and sending them to the line for easy points.

But Hymes is clearly an offensive center at this stage of his career. His 11 points are his most since he had 14 against Fresno Pacific on Dec. 30 and his seven shots are his most since he had 10 against William Jessup on Nov. 15, 2022.




Mack is back.

McIntosh played as well as any Pack player during his 15 minutes, scoring nine points on three 3-pointers. He also handed out four assists (three on two Hymes layups and a dunk) and clearly energized the Pack when he was on the floor.

The Pack outscored New Mexico 29-25 when McIntosh was on the floor. The 6-3 veteran guard with was personally responsible for 17 of the 29 points on three threes and four assists.

McIntosh had been struggling before Tuesday on offense, going 2-for-18 from the floor for 10 points over his previous eight games combined. The McIntosh we saw on Tuesday, the one giving the offensive a spark off the bench, is the one we’ve expected all season long.


Foster was trusted with 24 minutes but wasn’t a truly positive influence until the final six minutes of the game. The 6-foot-6 senior turned in a spotty performance over his first 18 minutes with no points, three rebounds, three turnovers and two fouls.

But he was pivotal to the Pack comeback in the final six minutes with five rebounds and his only two points of the night on a pair of free throws with 5:54 to play.

Foster finished with eight rebounds, four on the offensive glass. It was his offensive rebound off a Kenan Blackshear miss that led to a Nick Davidson layup and an 82-80 lead with 30 seconds to play.

It must be noted that the Pack bench was outscored 22-11 as Foster was scoring just two points and not taking a single shot in his 24 minutes.


Rolison, a 6-foot freshman, was given just nine minutes against the Lobos’ experienced and aggressive backcourt. Rolison, who had 25 points over 69 minutes in the Pack’s previous four games combined, didn’t score on Tuesday (missing two shots) and had a rebound, assist and turnover.


The Wolf Pack didn’t play solid defense all night long as the Lobos shot 50 percent (32-of-64) from the floor and 47 percent on threes (9-of-19). The Pack also was outrebounded 36-31 and had fewer second-chance points (17-5) and points from their bench (22-11).

There really was no logical reason for the Pack to be in the game in the final minutes but there they were just the same, leading or tied for 3:36 of the final 4:43. Take away 3-pointers by Jamal Mashburn with 73 seconds and 20 seconds to play and we would be talking about one of the grittiest, most inspiring and important Pack wins of the season.

But this time of year is about closing the deal and winning and, well, that didn’t happen at home of all places. The loss was just the second for the Pack at Lawlor Events Center this year and fourth in 30 games over the last two seasons.

So, yes, it hurts. It's coach Steve Alford's job now to make sure that this loss turns out to be better for his team’s focus and determination than a victory.

It is a bit concerning, though, that the Pack didn’t really learn anything from its 89-55 loss at New Mexico two weeks ago. That, too, falls on Alford. Yes, the offense was better than it was in Albuquerque. But that was likely due to the switch in venues more than anything else.

The Pack defense, the one area Alford continues to stress with this team, seemingly learned nothing from two weeks ago.

Yes, Mashburn put the final two nails in the Pack coffin, but the Pack really lost this game on defense when an 11-7 lead four minutes into the game turned into a 45-35 deficit by halftime. New Mexico made 17-of-25 shots during the final 16 minutes of the first half as nothing Alford did could stop the bleeding. You simply cannot let an opposing team strut onto your home floor and make 17-of-25 shots.


This loss could prove fatal for the Pack’s Mountain West title hopes and quest for the No. 1 seed in the postseason conference tournament. Home losses in the Mountain West are, after all, almost always devastating in the middle of February or later.

But there is nothing to suggest from this game that the Pack is broken or is spiraling out of control. It was, after all, just a one-point loss against a 20-win New Mexico team.

Yes, the defense was awful. But New Mexico, one of the better offensive teams in the nation, can do that to any defense. Don't forget that the Pack was a well-timed jumper away from winning despite trailing for 35-plus minutes.

This team is still an impressive 19-6 overall and (not-so-impressive) 6-5 in the Mountain West with seven games to go. The most important goal of all (an NCAA tournament bid) is still firmly in the Pack’s control.


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