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Mountain West rankings: Nevada Wolf Pack making new coach proud

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Zane Meeks (15) stretches for a rebound Saturday in the first half of Nevada’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball game at Lawlor Events Center.
Steve Ranson/Nevada News Group

The Nevada Wolf Pack is making its new coach very happy so far this season.

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Wolf Pack coach Steve Alford said Saturday afternoon after an impressive 83-66 victory over the Boise State Broncos at Lawlor Events Center. “I couldn’t be happier through 15 games. This team is growing. They are doing a lot of good things and they’re doing it really for the first time.”

The Wolf Pack, now 10-5 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West, moved up three spots this week to No. 2 in the Nevada Appeal men’s basketball rankings behind No. 1 San Diego State (15-0, 4-0).

The Wolf Pack started the week with a 67-61 win over Colorado State on Wednesday at home and has now won seven of its last nine games in Alford’s first year as head coach.

The Wolf Pack has gotten steady contributions up and down its roster. Zane Meeks, a freshman, had 14 points against Colorado State and Jazz Johnson, a senior, had 34 points on eight threes against Boise State. Jalen Harris had 35 points combined in the two games and Lindsey Drew had 14 points, nine assists and five rebounds against Boise State.

“They listen, they work,” said Alford, whose Wolf Pack has a crucial game at No. 3 Utah State (13-4, 2-2) on Saturday. “And when you get good listening and good work, those are positive things. We’ve got nine guys in the rotation and all nine are playing at a good level. It’s been good.”

San Diego State knocked off Fresno State 61-52 on Wednesday at home and Utah State 77-68 on Saturday on the road. Malachi Flynn had 38 points combined in the two games and Matt Mitchell had 34.

Utah State went winless last week losing to San Diego State on Saturday after a road loss at UNLV (70-53) on Wednesday.

The Aggies went 2-of-19 on threes and played at UNLV without 7-foot sophomore center Neemias Queta. Queta, who had been out since Dec. 21 with a knee bruise, returned against San Diego State with 15 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. The Aggies, though, continued to struggle from beyond the arc, going 6-of-23.

“I was really determined to play (against San Diego State),” Queta said. “It was a good game for me because I could learn to trust my knee again.”

The loss to San Diego State was Utah State’s first at home since last January.

No. 4 New Mexico (13-3, 2-1) was shorthanded in an 88-85 loss at San Jose State on Wednesday. The Lobos were playing without suspended starters Carlton Bragg and J.J. Caldwell.

The Lobos, though, trailed San Jose State 62-44 with 12:46 to go and 78-65 with 5:17 left before nearly stealing the victory on the road. New Mexico rallied to take an 85-84 lead with 16 seconds to go but No. 9 San Jose State (5-11, 1-3) pulled out the upset victory on a 3-pointer by Richard Washington with eight seconds left.

Washington finished with 25 points on seven threes after going just 3-of-19 on 3-pointers for the entire month of December.

“That last one was a heck of a shot,” said New Mexico coach Paul Weir, whose Lobos also lost at San Jose State last season. “I thought we had two guys contesting that shot. That’s a high-level shot to win the basketball game.”

The Spartans followed the win over New Mexico with a loss at Fresno State (79-64) on Saturday.

“I’m just proud of our guys that they were able to show they’re good enough to play at this level,” San Jose State coach Jean Prioleau said after beating New Mexico.

UNLV (8-8, 3-0) jumped up two spots in the rankings to No. 5 after beating Utah State 70-53 on Wednesday and Air Force 71-59 on Saturday, both at home. The Rebels’ Bryce Hamilton had 35 points combined in the two games off the bench. Amauri Hardy had 14 against Utah State and 21 against Air Force.

No. 6 Boise State (10-6, 2-2) beat Wyoming at home on Wednesday 65-54 before falling at Nevada 83-66 on the road on Saturday. The Broncos, though, shot just 8-of-41 on threes in the two games combined.

No. 7 Colorado State (10-7, 1-3) fell at Nevada 67-61 on Wednesday and rebounded with a 72-61 win over Wyoming on Saturday. David Roddy had 36 points in the two games.

No. 8 Fresno State (5-10, 1-3) split its two games last week, losing at San Diego State 61-52 on Wednesday and beating San Jose State 79-64 at home on Saturday.

New Williams was 2-of-12 from the floor for five points against San Diego State but then erupted for 32 points on 10 threes against San Jose State. Williams’ 10 threes (on 18 attempts) tied the Mountain West record.

No. 10 Air Force began the week with a non-league 105-56 win over UC Riverside on Tuesday before losing at UNLV 71-59 on Saturday. Ryan Swan had 25 points and Caleb Morris had 22 against Riverside. The Falcons were extremely efficient on offense against Riverside, shooting 15-of-23 on threes (65 percent), 34-of-56 from the floor (61 percent) and 22-of-25 on free throws (88 percent).

No. 11 Wyoming fell to 5-11, 0-4 with a pair of losses, 65-54 at Boise State and 71-61 at Colorado State. Hunter Maldonado had 39 points in the two games and Jake Hendricks had 28 on eight threes.

The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Jan. 6-12:

1. SAN DIEGO STATE (15-0, 4-0). This week: at Wyoming, Wednesday; vs. Boise State, Saturday.

2. NEVADA (10-5, 3-0). This week: at San Jose State, Wednesday; at Utah State, Saturday.

3. UTAH STATE (13-4, 2-2). This week: at Air Force, Tuesday; vs. Nevada, Saturday.

4. NEW MEXICO (13-3, 2-1). This week: vs. Fresno State, Tuesday; vs. Air Force, Saturday.

5. UNLV (8-8, 3-0). This week: at Boise State, Wednesday; at Wyoming, Saturday.

6. BOISE STATE (10-6, 2-2). This week: vs. UNLV, Wednesday; at San Diego State, Saturday.

7. COLORADO STATE (10-7, 1-3). This week: at San Jose State, Saturday.

8. FRESNO STATE (5-10, 1-3). This week: at New Mexico, Tuesday;

9. SAN JOSE STATE (5-11, 1-3). This week: vs. Nevada, San Jose State; vs. Colorado State, Saturday.

10. AIR FORCE (7-8, 1-2). This week: vs. Utah State, Tuesday; at New Mexico, Saturday.

11. WYOMING (5-11, 0-4). This week: vs. San Diego State, Wednesday; vs. UNLV, Saturday.