MW rankings: Pack’s command performance
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack is setting school records for domination.
The Wolf Pack, this week’s No. 1-ranked team in the Nevada Appeal men’s basketball rankings, whipped Colorado State, 98-82, and New Mexico, 91-62, last week to move to 23-1, 10-1 this season.
The last six victories of the Wolf Pack’s current nine-game winning streak have all come by 15 or more points. It’s the first time in school history it has won six games in a row by 15-plus points. Last year’s team won six in a row at one point by 13 or more. The only other Wolf Pack team to win six in a row by double digits each time was the 1978-79 team which won six in a row by 10 or more points.
“There are a lot of real positive things, for sure,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said. “We’re playing as good as we have all year and we keep getting better.”
The Pack has won nine games in a row overall by an average of 20.8 points. The last six have come by an average of 22.8 points. This year’s team trails just the 1978-79 Wolf Pack team in average margin of victory over a six and nine-game stretch of victories. The 1978-79 team beat opponents by an average of 22.4 points a game for nine consecutive games. Its first six victories in that streak were by an average of 25.8 points.
The Wolf Pack, the only Mountain West team to go 2-0 last week, is also distancing itself from the rest of the Mountain West. The Pack now has a two-game lead in the conference standings over both No. 2 Utah State (18-6, 8-3) and No. 3 Fresno State (17-6, 8-3) with just seven games to play.
Both Utah State and Fresno State split two games last week. Utah State nipped Fresno State 82-81 and lost to San Diego State 68-63. Fresno State rebounded from its loss to Utah State with an 83-65 win over UNLV.
The top four teams in this week’s rankings remained the same from a week ago. San Diego State (14-9, 6-4) stayed at No. 4 by also splitting its two games last week. In addition to its victory over Utah State, the Aztecs lost to New Mexico 83-70.
“I’ve got a group of kids who want to get better, who want to be coached, who want to play the right way,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said after the Aztecs’ win over Utah State on Saturday.
San Diego State had four players score in double figures against Utah State. Devin Watson had 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the free throw line. Jalen McDaniels had 16 points and Matt Mitchell and Nathan Mensah each scored 10.
“I told the kids this is a big stepping stone for us,” said Dutcher of the win over Utah State. “It will show us what lies ahead, that we can play with the top (Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State) of the league.”
Dutcher, whose Aztecs trail Nevada by three in the loss column in the league standings, believes his team’s NCAA tournament hopes rest with winning the Mountain West tournament next month in Las Vegas.
“We’re not going anywhere unless we win the conference tournament,” he said.
UNLV (12-11, 6-5) moved up a spot to No. 5 with an 83-72 win over No. 6 Boise State (11-13, 6-5) last week. The Rebels, though, also lost to Fresno State (83-65) last week and Boise State whipped San Jose State, 105-57.
Boise State’s Derrick Alston scored 33 points with five 3-pointers against San Jose State and also had 17 points against UNLV. The Broncos’ R.J. Williams had 22 points in just 19 minutes off the bench against San Jose State.
New Mexico (10-13, 4-7) jumped up two spots to No. 7 after beating San Diego State (83-70) and losing to Nevada (91-62). Anthony Mathis had 17 points with three 3-pointers, all in the second half, against San Diego State.
Air Force (10-13, 5-6) remained at No. 8 after an 81-76 victory over Wyoming in its only game last week. Lavelle Scottie had 34 points for the Falcons on 15-of-20 shooting.
Colorado State (9-15, 4-7) dropped two spots to No. 9 after a pair of losses last week, 98-82 to Nevada and 74-66 to Wyoming.
The loss to Wyoming on Saturday was especially upsetting to Colorado State coach Niko Medved. The Rams scored just 22 points in the first half against the Cowboys, one of its top regional rivals in the Mountain West.
“They completely outplayed us in every way,” Medved said. “They were tougher, they were more together, they were more poised and they played with more energy. They completely took it to us in every fashion.
“Our approach the first 10 minutes of the game was, for a lack of a better word, embarrassing. Myself, as a staff, we were not ready.”
Wyoming (6-17, 2-8), which hosts Nevada on Saturday, stayed at No. 10 despite its win over Colorado State. The Cowboys also lost to Air Force, 81-76, last week.
Wyoming’s Justin James turned in one of the most impressive performances this season in the Mountain West against Colorado State. The senior guard scored 36 points on 10-of-14 shooting. James was also 5-of-6 on threes and had seven assists and six rebounds and was 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
“Justin was special tonight,” Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought he played like a true NBA player.”
No. 11 San Jose State (3-19, 0-10) has now lost 13 games in a row. The Spartans are also 2-32 over their last 34 Mountain West regular season games.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Feb. 11-17 …
1. NEVADA (23-1, 10-1): The Wolf Pack is tied going into this week with Houston with the best overall record (23-1) in the nation. Tennessee (22-1) is the only other team with less than two losses. Last week: Nevada 98, Colorado State 82 (Wednesday), Nevada 91, New Mexico 62 (Saturday). This week: Nevada at Wyoming (Saturday).
2. UTAH STATE (18-6, 8-3): Sam Merrill had 35 points with six threes against San Diego State, scoring 56 percent of the Aggies’ 63 points. Last week: Utah State 82, Fresno State 81 (Tuesday), San Diego State 68, Utah State 63 (Saturday). This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Wednesday), Utah State at Air Force (Saturday).
3. FRESNO STATE (17-6, 8-3): Braxton Huggins, a 6-foot-4 guard, had 57 points with nine 3-pointers in two games last week combined. Last week: Utah State 82, Fresno State 81 (Tuesday), Fresno State 83, UNLV 65 (Saturday). This week: Boise State at Fresno State (Wednesday), Fresno State at New Mexico (Saturday).
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (14-9, 6-4): Nathan Mensah, a 6-10 freshman, had 10 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes against Utah State last week. Last week: New Mexico 83, San Diego State 70 (Tuesday), San Diego State 68, Utah State 63 (Saturday). This week: San Diego State at Colorado State (Tuesday), Boise State at San Diego State (Saturday).
5. UNLV (12-11, 6-5): Noah Robotham, a 6-1 senior guard, has led UNLV in assists in eight of the Rebels’ last nine games. He is averaging 7.6 assists a game over those eight games. Last week: UNLV 83, Boise State 72 (Wednesday), Fresno State 83, UNLV 65 (Saturday). This week: Air Force vs. UNLV (Tuesday), UNLV at San Jose State (Saturday).
6. BOISE STATE (11-13, 6-5): Alex Hobbs had 33 points in two games combined last week against UNLV and San Jose State. Last week: UNLV 83, Boise State 72 (Wednesday), Boise State 105, San Jose State 57 (Saturday). This week: Boise State at Fresno State (Wednesday), Boise State at San Diego State (Saturday).
7. NEW MEXICO (10-13, 4-7): A 29-point loss on Saturday to Nevada is the first time in school history the Lobos have lost a game by 25 or more points to a team it had beaten by 25 or more (85-57 on Jan. 5) in the previous meeting. Last week: New Mexico 83, San Diego State 70 (Tuesday), Nevada 91, New Mexico 62 (Saturday). This week: San Jose State at New Mexico (Wednesday), Fresno State at New Mexico (Saturday).
8. AIR FORCE (10-13, 5-6): The Falcons’ 81 points against Wyoming last week is the most points it has scored since a 106-88 win over UNLV on Jan. 16. Last week: Air Force 81, Wyoming 76 (Wednesday). This week: Air Force at UNLV (Tuesday), Utah State at Air Force (Saturday).
9. COLORADO STATE (9-15, 4-7): Nico Carvacho had 39 points and 34 rebounds in two games last week combined. Last week: Nevada 98, Colorado State 82 (Wednesday), Wyoming 74, Colorado State 66 (Saturday). This week: San Diego State at Colorado State (Tuesday).
10. WYOMING (6-17, 2-8): Justin James had 58 points, 14 rebounds and 16 assists last week in two games combined. Last week: Air Force 81, Wyoming 76 (Wednesday), Wyoming 74, Colorado State 66. This week: Wyoming at Utah State (Wednesday), Nevada at Wyoming (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (3-19, 0-10): The 105 points the Spartans allowed to Boise State last week is the most it has allowed since it gave up 119 to TCU on Feb. 7, 1998. The 48-point loss is the Spartans biggest margin of defeat since an 86-36 loss (50 points) against Boise State on Jan. 21, 2015. Last week: Boise State 105, San Jose State 57 (Wednesday). This week: San Jose State at Fresno State (Wednesday), San Jose State at San Diego State (Saturday).