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Pack gets important road win

 The Nevada men’s basketball team took a huge step Monday night.

 The Wolf Pack won a game on the opposing team’s floor for the first time this season, beating the New Mexico State Aggies, 77-67, in Las Cruces, N.M.

 Luke Babbitt scored 26 points and had 11 rebounds to lead the Pack.

 “We played tough on the road which is something we haven’t done well this year,” Babbitt told a national television audience on ESPNU. “We didn’t let the crowd affect us. This is a good step for us.”

 The Wolf Pack, now 9-6 overall and 1-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, had lost their first five games this season on the opponent’s home floor. Their only other victory away from Lawlor Events Center was on a neutral court in Las Vegas against Tulsa last month.

 “This is a good win for us,” Babbitt said.

  The Wolf Pack never trailed in avoiding its first 0-2 start in WAC play since the 2002-03 season. The Pack had balanced scoring in support of Babbitt as Brandon Fields finished with 13 points, Dario Hunt had 12, Armon Johnson had 10, Ray Kraemer had nine and Joey Shaw had seven.

 The Wolf Pack took a 38-31 halftime lead with Babbitt doing most of the damage with 15 points. It was a Babbitt 3-pointer that gave the Wolf Pack its biggest lead (33-22) of the first half with 4:40 to go before halftime. Babbitt scored all 15 of his first-half points in the final 12 minutes of the half.

 The Galena High graduate tipped in a miss by Shaw for a 20-16 Pack lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half. The sophomore also converted a 3-point play for a 25-18 lead with 6:50 to go in the half. He also had a 3-pointer to give the Pack a 36-29 lead with 1:50 to go.

 New Mexico State (8-7, 1-1) went on a 7-0 run to cut the Pack lead to 33-29 with 2:25 to go in the first half. Wendell McKines (16 points) scored inside, Hamidu Rahman (13 points) converted a 3-point play and Jahmar Young (14 points) scored on an acrobatic layup to complete the Aggies’ run.

 The Pack took control early, taking a quick 8-2 lead thanks to six points inside by Hunt. Shaw, who also had nine rebounds, hit a 3-pointer to give the Pack an 11-5 lead and Kraemer also connected from long distance for a 16-10 Nevada lead.

 New Mexico State did make things interesting midway through the second half, cutting the Pack lead to just 45-41 with 13:15 to play on a 3-pointer by McKines.

 The Pack, though, answered quickly with a layup by Johnson. A Rahman dunk sliced the Pack lead to 47-43 but, once again, the Pack answered right away, this time on a 3-pointer by Kraemer for a 50-43 lead with 12:25 to play.

 Fields, who led the Pack with five assists, had a layup for a 52-43 lead and also had a key steal and dunk for a 56-43 lead with 9:55 to play.  Shaw put back an offensive rebound off a Babbitt miss for a 59-47 Pack lead with 8:10 to play.

 The Pack held a double-digit lead over the final eight minutes of the game. Babbitt hit a short left-handed runner in the lane for a 64-49 lead with six minutes to go and Kraemer drained his third 3-pointer of the game for a 67-51 lead with five minutes to go.

 Hunt, who also had five rebounds, scored twice inside to give the Pack a commanding 71-54 lead with 3:30 to go.

  The Wolf Pack did a nice job defensively, holding Young and Jonathan Gibson (13 points) to just 27 points combined. The two guards came into the game averaging just under 39 points combined.

 The Wolf Pack, which also won at New Mexico State last year (79-71 on Jan. 9, 2009), will return to the court Saturday night (7:05 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center against San Jose State.

 Johnson had three assists to move into ninth place on the Wolf Pack all-time career list with 327, just ahead of Matt Williams (325).