Joe Santoro: Harris takes aim at Nevada Wolf Pack scoring record | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Harris takes aim at Nevada Wolf Pack scoring record

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Jalen Harris, shown against Colorado State's Kendle Moore on Jan. 1, has a chance to set Nevada's single-season scoring record.
Thomas Ranson/NNG

The greatest scoring streak in Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball history came to an end Wednesday night in Las Vegas. All Jalen Harris needed for his fifth consecutive 30-point game was to sink the second of two free throws with three seconds to play in overtime to cap off the Wolf Pack’s eventual 82-79 victory over UNLV. Harris missed, finishing with 29 points. The junior guard had plenty of chances for his seventh 30-point game of the year. He missed all eight of his 3-point shots. He was just 9-of-21 from the floor overall and just 11-of-15 from the free throw line, the first time he’s missed as many as four free throws in a game this year. He missed three of his last four shots in the second half and was just 1-of-3 in overtime. He also missed two free throws with 15:30 to play in regulation. But Harris, who played all 45 minutes against UNLV, was still the reason the Wolf Pack won the game, leading the team in scoring, rebounds (14) and assists (five). He also earned praise from Rebels’ guard Marvin Coleman. “He’s an unbelievable player,” Coleman said. “He can score at all three levels (threes, mid-range game and at the rim). You have to tip your hat to him. He’s unbelievable.”

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Harris, though, did keep one streak alive on Wednesday. He went over 20 shot attempts for the fifth consecutive game, which is also likely a Wolf Pack school record. It is certainly a Pack record over the past 20 seasons. Harris now has seven games this year with 20 or more shot attempts. That, too, is a Pack record over the past 20 seasons. Caleb Martin had four such games in both the 2018-19 and 2017-18 seasons. Deonte Burton had four in 2013-14. Nick Fazekas had five in 2005-06 and Marcellus Kemp had six in 2007-08. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about first-year Pack coach Steve Alford, it’s that he encourages his best scorer to shoot the ball as much as possible. Take that, Bobby Knight. Alford, after all, averaged 13.5 shots a game (hoisting up 1,685 shots) in four seasons at Indiana in the 1980s.

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San Diego State whipped New Mexico 82-59 on Wednesday to clinch the Mountain West regular season title, ending a streak of three Wolf Pack regular season titles in a row. The Pack is now tied with Utah State and Boise State at 9-5 in league play with just four games to play. Colorado State is also alive in the race for second place at 8-5. Who has the best chance to avoid San Diego State until the conference title game? Utah State by far. The Aggies are the only team among those with just five league losses that does not have to play San Diego State the rest of the way. The Aggies also get to play four teams (Fresno State, Wyoming, San Jose State and New Mexico) that are just 39-62 combined this season. Colorado State’s final five opponents are just 59-67. Boise State (their last four foes are 61-41 combined) and Nevada (its last four are 57-44) have the most difficult road to second place. But the Pack does get to play San Diego State at Lawlor Events Center in the final regular season game on Feb. 29. The Pack has lost just seven games at Lawlor over its last five seasons, beating San Diego State three consecutive times.

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One of the benefits of Harris’ school-record four-game streak of 30-point efforts is that it has brought up the names of great Pack scorers of the past. Ken “Tree” Green still owns the Pack record of most 30-point games in a season at 11 in 1982-83. Romie Thomas had eight in 1970-71 and Alex Boyd had eight in 1967-68. Edgar Jones (1976-77) and Boyd (1968-69) had seven in a season. Darryl Owens had four 30-point games in 1988-89 and six others with 25-29 points. Kevin Franklin had two 40-point games in 1989-90 (a high of 48 against Loyola Marymount and 40 against Eastern Washington) but none with 30-39 points.

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Green never had four games in a row with 30 but he did have 30 or more in three of his last four games, six of his last nine and nine of his last 17 in 1982-83. He also scored 25 or more points in five of his first six games in 1982-83. He had 31 against San Diego and 34 against Boise State in January 1983 in back-to-back games. He also had 32 against Weber State and 32 more against Idaho State in consecutive games in February 1983. Thomas had 30 or more in five of his first eight games and six of his first 13 in 1970-71. He won the West Coast Athletic Conference scoring title at 26.1 points a game (scoring 30 against UNLV in the last game of the season) and scored 20 or more in 19 of his 22 games.

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Boyd just might have been the Pack’s best scorer in school history. He averaged a school-record 26.5 points a game in 1967-68 and set the school record with 49 points in a game against Willamette in the first game of the 1967-68 season. He also had 44 that season against the Oregon College of Education and 39 against Chico State. He also had a 48-point effort on Dec. 22, 1967 in the California Western Holiday Tournament in San Diego against the Coronado Island Naval Amphibious Base (PhibPac) that did not count in his season statistics. Boyd also had 30 or more points in a stretch of four-of-seven games and 6-of-13 in the 1968-69 season.

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Where will Harris eventually end up among the greatest single-season scoring efforts in Pack history? That depends on how many games he has left this season. Harris has 538 points already this season and still has at least five games remaining (four in the regular season and at least one in the conference tournament) and more if the Pack plays in a postseason tournament, which is more than likely. Luke Babbitt’s record of 743 points in 2009-10 is clearly in jeopardy, especially if Harris keeps hoisting up 20 or more shots a game. Harris needs just 205 points to reach Babbitt. At 30 a game, that means he needs just seven more games.