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Jalen Harris leads Nevada Wolf Pack over San Jose State

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Another Mountain West home game and another 30-point performance from Jalen Harris added up to yet another Nevada Wolf Pack victory Saturday.

The Wolf Pack rolled over the San Jose State Spartans, 95-77, in front of a crowd of 8,310 at Lawlor Events Center for its 19th consecutive win at home against a Mountain West opponent.

Harris, the Mountain West’s leading scorer at 21.2 points a game, scored 32 points to lead the Wolf Pack. The 6-foot-5 junior is one of the hottest scorers in the nation with a school-record four consecutive games with 30 or more points.

“Jalen does what Jalen does,” Wolf Pack coach Steve Alford said. “He’s on a heck of a roll right now.”

“That’s a big thing,” said Harris of the four 30-point games in a row, “especially here at Nevada. I love being here, playing in front of these fans and this community.”

Harris, who has six games this season with 30 points or more, has scored 131 points over his last four games. He had 13 points in the first half against San Jose State and 19 in the second half.

“It’s been fun,” said Harris of his recent hot streak. “You know, it’s been a lot of fun.”

The Wolf Pack improved to 15-10 overall and 8-5 in the Mountain West while San Jose State, which got a game-high 34 points from Seneca Knight, fell to 7-17, 3-9. The victory also gave the Pack a split in the two-game season series with the Spartans after a 70-68 loss at San Jose State on Jan. 8.

“We knew we owed them one,” Harris said. “We definitely came out prepared and ready to play this game. Our energy was there right from the jump.”

The Wolf Pack, now 11-2 at home this season with nine wins in a row at Lawlor, never trailed. The Pack has now won nine of the last 10 games in a rivalry that began during the 1928-29 season.

“Our effort was poor there,” said Alford of the two-point loss in San Jose a month ago. “We got pounded on the glass (actually just 41-38) and we didn’t do anything well. So I think our guys are growing. This was a really good win.”

Harris was 13-of-23 from the floor and 5-of-10 on threes.

“It’s been a fun run,” Harris said. “Now I’m just trying to maintain.”

He was 4-of-4 on threes in the second half.

“It’s about making the right read (of the defense),” Harris said. “If the right read is to score, then that’s what I’ll do. If the right read is to kick it back out (to a teammate), then that’s what I’ll do.”

Harris had three assists to go along with five rebounds against the Spartans, though he only went to the line once (1-for-1).

“He’s doing a lot of good things for us,” Alford said. “And his teammates are doing a great job of finding him, which is important for him. He’s just had two-and-a-half to three weeks of playing at a very, very high level. I’m not saying we saw this coming but he’s a very, very good basketball player.”

Scoring points has always been one of Harris’ strengths, though he’s now enjoying the best run of his career by far. He averaged 12.2 points over 38 games as a freshman and sophomore for Louisiana Tech from 2016-18 before transferring to Nevada and sitting out last season.

“That’s kind of the mindset I have,” Harris said. “You have to believe nobody can guard you. You have to be confident.”

Harris had help against the Spartans. Nisre Zouzoua came off the bench to score 15 points while Jazz Johnson returned from a two-game absence (shoulder injury) to score 13 points on three threes in just 22 minutes. Freshman Kane Milling also chipped in with a career-high 11 points.

“Kane was really, really good,” Alford said. “He played hard. We’re seeing some real good growth out of him.”

The Wolf Pack outscored the Spartans 22-9 over the final 5:36 of the first half to take a commanding 48-31 halftime lead.

The Spartans, led by a Richard Washington 3-pointer, went on a mini 7-2 run to cut the Pack lead to 26-22 with 6:37 to play in the half. The Wolf Pack, though, then dominated the final five-plus minutes as Lindsey Drew and Johnson drained threes. Drew would finish the game with just five points but the senior point guard also had a team-high eight rebounds and seven assists.

Harris, who had 13 points in the first half despite missing 5-of-6 threes, had a dunk, a short jumper and a layup over the final three minutes of the half. Zouzoua, who also had 13 points by halftime, had a pair of layups less than a minute apart for a 45-27 Pack lead with 1:24 to play before intermission.

Milling, averaging just 2.2 points a game entering Saturday’s game, had 10 points and two steals in the first 20 minutes. He had 10 points over the last five games combined before facing the Spartans.

“My mindset is to just go out and be aggressive,” Milling said. “Playing behind (veteran players) guys like Jalen, Jazz and Niz, it’s just a learning process.”

The 6-foot-4 Milling hit a jumper for a 16-10 lead seven minutes into the game and also had a three-point play for a 20-13 lead two minutes later. Milling, whose previous high game was nine points against Air Force in December, had another three-point play for a 43-27 lead with 1:14 left in the half.

The one-sided score at halftime was the result of seven Wolf Pack layups and three dunks. San Jose State had just two layups and one dunk and shot 9-of-29 (31 percent) in the first half.

The Wolf Pack then put the game away over the first five minutes of the second half.

The Pack opened the half on a 16-1 run as San Jose State missed its first nine shots from the floor. Harris and Johnson each had a pair of 3-pointers in the run, which began with a short jumper from Drew and ended with a dunk by K.J. Hymes.

Harris reached 22 points on a 3-pointer (his fourth of the game) with just under 11 minutes to play for a 72-38 lead.

The only drama over the final 11 minutes was whether or not Harris would get to 30 points.

The junior reached 24 points on a jumper for a 79-53 lead with seven minutes to play. He got to 27 on a layup and free throw with 5:21 to go for an 86-58 lead. And Drew fed him for a layup and his 29th point with 4:39 to go and an 88-58 lead.

Harris then reached 32 points on his fifth 3-pointer of the game as the Pack took a 91-60 lead with 4:07 to go. Alford then took him out of the game with 3:17 left and the Pack up 93-65.

The Spartans’ Knight, who had 28 points against the Pack at San Jose State in early January, used garbage time to pad his stat sheet. The 6-6 sophomore, who had just 11 points at halftime, scored 20 points in the final 7:33. His final 13 points came in a span of just 2:37. He reached 31 points on a short jumper with 1:51 to go and finished his afternoon with a 3-pointer with 1:13 left.

Richard Washington (16 points) was the only other Spartan in double figures.

“I liked our defense up until those final seven minutes,” Alford said.

The Wolf Pack now heads out on the road for two important games at UNLV (Feb. 12) and New Mexico (Feb. 18) before returning home Feb. 22 to face Fresno State. The regular season will end with a road game at Wyoming (Feb. 25) and a home game against San Diego State on Feb. 29.

“If we want to make this season special we’ve got to go on the road and win,” Alford said.