Mountain West rankings: Nevada Wolf Pack ‘a terrific 3-point shooting team’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Mountain West rankings: Nevada Wolf Pack ‘a terrific 3-point shooting team’

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada’s Jazz Johnson (22) drives toward the basket Saturday against New Mexico.
Steve Ranson/Nevada News Group

The Nevada Wolf Pack put on a shooting display to remember Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.

“They are a terrific 3-point shooting team,” New Mexico Lobos coach Paul Weir said. “Their 3-point shot was amazing.”

The Wolf Pack, ranked No. 3 in the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings, equaled a school record with 17 3-pointers in a 96-74 victory over the Lobos. The 17 threes also set a Lawlor Events Center record.

“In the second half we made it a really big emphasis (defending Nevada’s 3-point shooting) and they continued to make a lot of shots,” Weir said. “Nevada made a ton of shots.”

Weir’s Lobos, whose roster has been depleted by injuries and suspensions, have struggled to defend the 3-point shot in recent weeks. Colorado State had a Mountain West season-high 19 threes against the Lobos on Jan. 15. New Mexico is tied with Air Force, allowing the most 3-pointers (205) in the Mountain West this season. The Wolf Pack had 13 threes in a 100-85 win at Air Force on Dec. 7.

Nisre Zouzoua had six of the Pack’s threes (on seven attempts) against New Mexico, followed by Jazz Johnson (four), Zane Meeks (three), Lindsey Drew (two) and K.J. Hymes (one) and Jalen Harris (one). Zouzoua played two seasons (2015-17) with Bryant and had seven threes in a game twice. The 23-year-old, though, had just three threes all last season for Nevada and had not made more than three in a game this season before Saturday.

Nevada, now 13-8 overall and 6-3 in the Mountain West, also beat UNLV last week, 86-72, making 11-of-26 threes. The 28 threes are the most the Pack has made in consecutive games since it had 32 at Santa Clara (15) and Pacific (17) on Nov. 15 and 18, 2017. The Wolf Pack leads the Mountain West in total 3-pointers (211) and 3-point percentage (.389).

No. 6 New Mexico, which also beat San Jose State last week, 86-59, is now 16-6, 5-4. The Lobos, though, were missing four starters against Nevada. Carlton Bragg and J.J. Caldwell are both currently suspended for off-the-court incidents while JaQuan Lyle and Vance Jackson missed the game with knee injuries.

“We’ve lost four significant players,” Weir said. “These guys are trying. I feel great about our guys. But this is not their cross to bear. They are playing hard and giving it their best.”

San Diego State (21-0, 10-0) stayed perfect and remained at No. 1 after beating Wyoming (72-55) and UNLV (71-67). The Aztecs’ Malachi Flynn scored 38 points in the two games combined.

No. 5 UNLV (11-11, 6-3) took a 45-43 lead against San Diego State with just under 12 minutes to play but then went five minutes without scoring. The Aztecs opened up a 63-53 lead with 1:53 to play and held on for the victory.

“They (an opposing team) are going to have to play a heck of a game to beat this Aztecs team,” said San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher, whose Aztecs come to Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 29.

UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose Rebels went 0-2 last week against Nevada and San Diego State, came away impressed with the Aztecs. “They don’t make mistakes offensively,” Otzelberger said. “And defensively they are always in the right spot. So it’s not that they make the heroic plays. They are just so sound over and over again.”

Utah State climbed back into the No. 2 spot by beating Air Force (72-47) and Colorado State (77-61) at home last week. Sam Merrill had 28 points against Colorado State and 15 against Air Force. Justin Bean had 29 points and 22 rebounds last week while Neemias Queta had 24 points in the two games.

Air Force had beaten Utah State 79-60 earlier in the month, out-rebounding the Aggies, 50-29. Utah State, though, beat the Falcons on the boards last week, 45-34.

“They punked us at their place,” said Merrill of the Jan. 7 meeting at Air Force. “They had some fun with it, which they deserved with the way they beat us down. So we were definitely ready, that’s for sure.”

No. 4 Boise State (13-8, 5-4) whipped Fresno State 87-53 last week behind Abu Kigab’s 23 points and four threes. Justinian Jessup had 19 points and five threes. The Broncos, which host Nevada this Saturday, were 14-of-28 on threes and shot 32-of-59 (54 percent) overall.

No. 10 Fresno State (6-14, 2-7) was also blown out by Colorado State (86-68) last week. Nate Grimes had 23 points against Colorado State but did not play against Boise State because he was suspended for breaking a team rule. Noah Blackwell had 14 points on four threes against Fresno State while the rest of his teammates were 0-for-11 on threes for the game.

Fresno State has now lost four of its last five games and seven of its last nine. The 34-point loss to Boise is the Bulldogs’ biggest loss ever at Save Mart Center.

No. 7 Colorado State (14-8, 5-4), which hosts Nevada on Wednesday night, beat Fresno but then saw its five-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday with a 77-61 loss to Utah State. David Roddy had 26 points against Fresno but just 10 against Utah State. Adam Thistlewood had 29 points in the two games combined last week.

No. 8 San Jose State (7-14, 3-6) lost to New Mexico (86-59) but rebounded to beat Air Force (90-81) last week. The Spartans were just 5-of-25 on threes against New Mexico but improved to 13-of-30 against Air Force. Seneca Knight had 11 points against New Mexico and 20 against Air Force.

No. 9 Air Force (9-12, 3-6) fell to both Utah State (72-47) and San Jose State last week. Lavelle Scottie, though, had 38 points in the two games combined. The Falcons were just 3-of-19 on threes against Utah State and improved to 13-of-29 against San Jose State.

No. 11 Wyoming lost at San Diego State (72-55) last week to fall to 5-16 overall and 0-9 in the Mountain West. The Cowboys got 20 points and five threes from Jake Hendricks.

Wyoming has now lost seven games in a row and 13 of its last 15. The Cowboys, which host Nevada on Feb. 25, are also just 4-23 in Mountain West games over the last two seasons.

The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Jan. 27-Feb. 2:

1. SAN DIEGO STATE (21-0, 10-0). This week: at New Mexico (Wednesday); vs. Utah State (Saturday).

2. UTAH STATE (16-6, 5-4). This week: at Wyoming (Tuesday); at San Diego State (Saturday).

3. NEVADA (13-8, 6-3). This week: at Colorado State (Wednesday); at Boise State (Saturday).

4. BOISE STATE (13-8, 5-4). This week: vs. San Jose State (Wednesday); vs. Nevada (Saturday).

5. UNLV (11-11, 6-3). This week: at Colorado State (Saturday).

6. NEW MEXICO (16-6, 5-4). This week: vs. San Diego State (Wednesday); at Fresno State (Saturday).

7. COLORADO STATE (14-8, 5-4). This week: vs. Nevada (Wednesday); vs. UNLV (Saturday).

8. SAN JOSE STATE (7-14, 3-6). This week: at Boise State (Wednesday); vs. Wyoming (Saturday).

9. AIR FORCE (9-12, 3-6). This week: vs. Fresno State (Tuesday).

10. FRESNO STATE (6-14, 2-7). This week: at Air Force (Tuesday); vs. New Mexico (Saturday).

11. WYOMING (5-16, 0-9). This week: vs. Utah State (Tuesday); at San Jose State (Saturday).