Grading the Pack: Nevada rallies to top UNLV

Wolf Pack forward Nick Davidson looks for an open teammate in Nevada’s Mountain West Conference basketball game against New Mexico. The Lobos edged Nevada 83-82 thriller Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.

Wolf Pack forward Nick Davidson looks for an open teammate in Nevada’s Mountain West Conference basketball game against New Mexico. The Lobos edged Nevada 83-82 thriller Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 69-66 men’s basketball victory over the UNLV Rebels at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday . . .



The Wolf Pack’s shooting guard came out hot, scoring his team’s first eight points of the game on two threes and a jumper in the paint in the first three-plus minutes of the game.

Lucas, though, then struggled the rest of the game to recapture his early-game rhythm. He ended up missing eight of his last 10 shots the rest of the game to finish with 18 points. He saved his performance, though, by scoring the Pack’s final four points on free throws in the last 16 seconds.

The Rebels, for some reason, chose to foul Lucas (one of the best free throw shooters in the nation at 91 percent) with 16 seconds to play instead of Blackshear (65 percent from the line). But Rebels, of course, will be Rebels.

Lucas was 1-for-6 from the floor over the final 16 minutes of the first half and then took just four shots (making one) in the second half. Lucas, who had just two rebounds and no assists, steals or blocks, was reduced to a 3-point shooter for the bulk of the game.

After attacking the paint for a short jumper and a 2-0 lead just 44 seconds into the game, 10 of his last 12 shots were from 3-point distance.


This was not Blackshear’s greatest game in a Wolf Pack uniform. It certainly wasn’t his worst but, make no mistake, Blackshear (after missing the final Pack shot in an 83-82 loss to New Mexico on Tuesday) seemed to try a bit too hard on Saturday.

The 6-6 Blackshear finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing his third double-double of the season. But he also turned the ball over an alarming season-high seven times and had just two assists.

Blackshear was simply dreadful for the first nine minutes of the game when he was 0-for-2 from the floor, didn’t score and turned the ball over three times. He finished his 18 first-half minutes with just four points (all on free throws), missing all three of his shots from the floor as well as committing four turnovers and two fouls.

Blackshear’s strength, though, is he never gives up on himself or his teammates no matter how his game is going. He came alive in the final nine minutes with six points, three rebounds and one assist and didn’t turn the ball over as the Pack stole the victory.


In case you haven’t noticed, Nick Davidson has turned himself into one of the best players in the Mountain West. The Rebels sure noticed all that and more in the final 8:21 as Davidson scored nine points to lead the Pack comeback.

Davidson keyed the most important two Pack points of the night, grabbing an offensive rebound (after he missed a 3-pointer) and feeding Daniel Foster for a layup and a 65-64 lead with 47 seconds to play.

Yes, he shouldn’t have been shooting a three in that situation in the first place (where he is a 26 percent shooter this year) and the offensive rebound was made possible only because Tre Coleman had the presence of mind to swat the ball from under the basket out to Davidson. So, this wasn’t all about Davidson.

But Davidson made a beautiful pass to Foster for the layup just the same. He didn’t try to do too much and become the hero. All he did was make the right play at the right time giving Pack fans yet another example of why this Pack team wins games. There are no heroes. There are just grinders.

Davidson finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds (five on offensive glass) in his 36 minutes and was 6-of-6 on shots inside the 3-point circle (0-for-3 outside).

Want some hero numbers? Davidson has blossomed the last five games, scoring 99 points with 44 rebounds on 38-of-60 shooting (63 percent) with three double-doubles.


Pretty much everything you need to know about Coleman’s value to the Pack was summed up with less than a minute to play. But you might have missed it since it didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Coleman, battling under the basket, deliberately batted a missed Nick Davidson 3-pointer back out to Davidson, who then fed Daniel Foster for a layup and a 65-64 Pack lead with 47 seconds left.

That, according to the rules, wasn’t one of Coleman’s four credited rebounds for the game but you can be sure if Coleman doesn’t knock that rebound back out to Davidson the Pack likely loses a frustrating game.

Coleman missed 4-of-5 3-pointers against the Rebels and finished with just six points in his 27 minutes. He also turned the ball over three times and was called for three fouls to go along with his four boards, three assists and a steal. So, yes, he had a rollercoaster game.

But, again, that’s only because Coleman’s true value rarely shows up on the score sheet. UNLV outscored the Pack 7-0 midway through the second half, building its lead to 54-43, when Coleman was on the bench for two minutes midway through the second half. Coleman returned to the floor with 10:55 to go and the Rebels scored just 12 points the rest of the game. That’s what Coleman means to the Pack.

The 6-7 Coleman had a brief fling with being an offensive star in the middle of January when he scored 39 points on eight threes over two games against San Diego State and Wyoming (two Pack losses). It’s why he continues to fire up threes even now despite making just 7-of-25 over the last seven games.

But that offensive-minded version of Coleman was before Davidson emerged as the Pack’s most consistent offensive threat. Coleman has settled back nicely into his role as a jack-of-all-trades, team-first handyman that helps the Pack grind out victories.


Hymes gave the Pack 21 important minutes, scoring six points with three rebounds, two blocks and two turnovers before fouling out once again with four minutes to play.

Hymes continues to be an open can of paint on a spinning turntable with the paint flying all over the walls, doors and windows. But he always gives maximum effort and seemingly does spark the team emotionally when he’s out on the floor. So, yes, sometimes the paint flying out of the Hymes’ can resembles a Jackson Pollock masterpiece and not just a glob of paint on the wall.

Hymes’ layup cut UNLV’s lead to 43-35 with 16:37 to play in the second half. He then had a three-point play on a layup and free throw to pull the Pack to within 43-38 just 30 seconds later. Hymes also blocked a Rob Whaley dunk with 9:12 to play when the Pack was already trailing 56-45.

The 6-10 Hymes has now fouled out of four of his last nine games. But having Hymes on the bench isn’t always such a bad thing because it gives Davidson more space with which to work his magic on offense. Just two of Davidson’s 19 points came with Hymes on the floor.



McIntosh was sort of an invisible man on Saturday, playing 12 uneventful minutes. The veteran guard took just one shot and didn’t score or do anything else of note except grab a rebound.

He was put on the floor twice for defense in the final 90 seconds of the game as the offensive minded Lucas was sent to the bench. McIntosh was also on the floor for all but five seconds of the final 4:50 of the first half when UNLV upped its 27-24 lead to 36-28 by halftime.


Foster was the Forrest Gump of the Wolf Pack on Saturday, in the right place at just the right time. The veteran role player took a feed in the paint from Nick Davidson and converted the layup for a 65-64 lead with 47 seconds to play.

Foster, who also converted a pass from Kenan Blackshear into a layup to cut the Rebel lead to 62-57 with 3:29 to play, was on the floor for 24 minutes. He was 3-for-3 from the floor for six points and also had five rebounds, three assists and a steal with a couple turnovers and fouls.

Being in the right place at the right time and making the right play when needed is why Foster gets about 20 minutes a game. So, yes, it is not an accident.

He had an offensive rebound and an assist on a Jarod Lucas 3-pointer for a 19-18 lead with nine minutes to play in the first half. He also fed Davidson for a dunk for a 28-27 lead with three minutes left in the half.

It was also not an accident that Foster was on the floor for the final nine minutes of the game when the Pack rallied from 11 points down to win.


The 6-foot freshman was given just nine minutes and produced two points, an assist and a rebound while committing two fouls. He was on the floor for the final 1:51 of the first half for the bulk of UNLV’s 9-0 run that saw the Rebels take a 36-28 halftime lead.

TYLAN POPE: Incomplete

Pope, who missed the previous three games with a leg injury, saw the floor for just 5:29 on Saturday, all in the first half. He missed is lone shot (a 3-pointer) and had a foul and a rebound. UNLV outscored the Pack 13-4 when Pope was on the floor.


Everything that didn’t go well in the 83-82 loss to New Mexico last Tuesday did go right for the Pack on Saturday. New Mexico made more plays down the stretch (namely two threes by Jamal Mashburn) than the Pack and the Pack made more plays down the stretch than UNLV.

Alford’s strength as a coach (and sometimes his downfall) is that he is about as consistent as any coach in the history of the game. He does the same thing each time out, doesn’t let his emotions get the best of him and always has faith in his players.

That all paid off on Saturday as the Pack relied on its defense over the final five-plus minutes to choke the life out of the Rebels. Davidson did his thing in the paint and the Pack outscored UNLV 16-4 over the final 5:06 and won an important Mountain West game on the road to improve to 20-6, 7-5.

It is usually that simple and basic with an Alford-coached team. It’s all about execution at the right time. With Alford the ball will be in the right player’s hands at the right time. That’s all a coach can do.


It would now take a complete collapse on the Pack’s part over the final six regular season games and Mountain West tournament to keep this team out of the NCAA tournament next month.

But if the Pack plays like it did on Saturday it will be a short stay in the NCAA Tournament. UNLV outscored the Pack 29-17 over a stretch of 14 minutes (the last three in the first half and first 11 in the second half) to take control of the game at 56-45.

All the Rebels had to do was make free throws down the stretch and they likely would have protected their home court against their in-state rival. The Pack, after all, was flat for much of the evening and almost lost a game in which it had a 41-20 rebounding edge. That would have been inexcusable.

But Rebels will be Rebels. UNLV missed four crucial free throws in the final four minutes, took silly shots and completely melted down over the final five minutes because the Pack defense turned up the heat.

UNLV gave this game away like a free drink on The Strip. And the Pack didn’t even have to leave a tip.

Yes, it was an ugly Pack win. The Pack, after all, missed 16-of-21 threes and committed 17 turnovers. But they owned the boards, made free throws (22-of-26) and played smarter than their opponent with the game on the line and, yes, sometimes that’s all it takes, especially against a team that can forget about going to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Never forget that winning ugly on the road is a requirement for Mountain West success. It’s all about grinding out wins this time of year and this Pack team does it as well as any in recent memory.


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