MW rankings: Pack keeps lock on top spot
Special to the Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack remained perfect last week and on top of this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings.
The Wolf Pack’s defense keyed a 72-68 victory on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center against the high-scoring South Dakota State Jackrabbits to improve to 11-0 on the year. The Wolf Pack is the only Mountain West team with fewer than two losses and one of only three (along with Utah State and Fresno State) to be sitting at more than two games over .500.
The top five spots in the Nevada Appeal rankings remained the same as a week ago after a light schedule of games. The 11 Mountain West teams played a total of just 11 games combined last week, going 7-4. Two teams — Fresno State and Air Force — were idle.
Fresno State (7-2), which has won five games in a row stayed at No. 2. Utah State (9-2) is No. 3 followed by No. 4 San Diego State (6-4) and No. 5 UNLV (5-4).
Utah State whipped Alabama State 86-48 as five players (Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta, Dwayne Brown, Crew Ainge and Diogo Brito) all scored in double figures. Ainge is the son of former BYU and NBA player Danny Ainge. Alabama State, which also lost to South Dakota State earlier this season, also lost to Boise State of the Mountain West last week.
San Diego State trounced Cal State Dominguez Hills, a Division II school, 99-46, behind 20 points from Matt Mitchell. The Aztecs went on a 23-0 run to snap a 9-9 tie to break the game open. The Aztecs needed a win badly after losses to San Diego and California the week before.
“It feels good to get a win,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “But the thing I liked is the way we shared the ball. We played the right way.”
“They hit on a lot of cylinders,” Dominguez Hills coach Steve Becker said. “It’s just unfortunate that we were the game to get them going.”
UNLV outlasted BYU 92-90 in overtime on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Noah Robotham. Robotham, a Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High graduate, is in his first year with the Rebels after three seasons at Akron. He’s averaging 6.7 points a game for UNLV and is shooting just 14-of-50 (28 percent) on threes after averaging 9.4 in three seasons (39 percent on threes) at Akron.
“I came home to win games,“ Robotham said after the game.
“I could see his elation after the game,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “It was, ‘Back at ya. Yeah, I’m a little better than you have been saying.’”
New Mexico (5-4) jumped up two spots to No. 6 after losing to Colorado, 78-75, early in the week and beating Central Arkansas 82-70 on Sunday. Anthony Mathis, a 6-foot-3, senior, had 23 points on seven threes against Colorado and 13 points on four threes against Central Arkansas. Mathis took 15 shots against Central Arkansas, all from beyond the arc.
Boise State (4-6) remained at No. 7 after beating Alabama State 67-57 at home and losing to Oregon 66-54 on the road. The Broncos, though, did lead Oregon 28-24 at halftime.
Wyoming (3-7) fell two spots to No. 8 after a 90-87 overtime loss to Denver. The Cowboys, which also lost to Denver (88-78) last year, have lost three of their last four and five of their last seven. The 3-7 start is Wyoming’s worst after 10 games since it also began 3-7 in 1996-97.
Air Force (4-6) is at No. 9 after taking last week off. San Jose State (3-6) moved up a spot to No. 10 after beating Northern Arizona, 79-74, behind five 3-pointers and 23 points from sophomore Noah Baumann. The Spartans have won two games in a row after losing six on a row. The two-game winning streak is San Jose State’s first win streak of two games or longer since it won four in a row from Jan. 28-Feb. 11, 2017.
Colorado State (5-6) lost to South Dakota 68-63 on Sunday to drop two spots to the bottom of the rankings at No. 11. The Rams missed 19-of-26 3-pointers against South Dakota and have now lost six of their last eight games after starting the year 3-0.
The Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Dec. 17-23 …
1. NEVADA (11-0): The Wolf Pack has scored under 80 points in each of its last five games after scoring 83 or more in its first six games. Last week: Nevada 72, South Dakota State 68. This week: Akron at Nevada (Saturday)
2. FRESNO STATE (7-2): Deshon Taylor, who is second in scoring at 18.0 points a game for Fresno State, is expected to miss at least another three weeks with an elbow injury. Last week: No game. This week: California at Fresno State (Wednesday), UT Martin at Fresno State (Saturday)
3. UTAH STATE (9-2): The Aggies held Alabama State to just 21 percent shooting (12-of-58) last week. Alabama State was 8-of-39 on 2-pointers and 4-of-19 on threes. Last week: Utah State 86, Alabama State 48. This week: Utah State at Houston (Thursday)
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (6-4): The Aztecs will be BYU’s fourth (and final) Mountain West opponent this Saturday. BYU has already lost to Nevada and UNLV and beaten Utah State. Last week: San Diego State 99, CS Dominguez Hills 46. This week: BYU at San Diego State (Saturday)
5. UNLV (5-4): Joel Ntambwe, a 6-9 freshman from Kinshasa, Congo, is rapidly maturing into a force. He has led the Rebels in scoring the last two games against quality opponents with 18 points against Illinois and 23 against BYU. Last week: UNLV 92, BYU 90 (overtime). This week: UNLV at Hawaii (Saturday).
6. NEW MEXICO (5-4): Makuach Maluach, a 6-7 sophomore from Australia, had 22 points and seven rebounds against Central Arkansas and is averaging 10 points a game Last week: New Mexico 82, Central Arkansas 70 … Colorado 78, New Mexico 75. This week: North Texas at New Mexico (Tuesday), Pennsylvania at New Mexico (Saturday).
7. BOISE STATE (4-6): Justinian Jessup, a 6-6 junior, had 16 points against Alabama State on Wednesday but followed that up with just two points in 38 minutes against Oregon on Saturday. He shot just 6-of-23 combined in the two games. Last week: Boise State 67, Alabama State 57 … Oregon 66, Boise State 54. This week: Boise State at Loyola Marymount (Wednesday), Pacific at Boise State (Saturday).
8. WYOMING (3-7): Justin James had 26 points against Denver but failed to lead the Cowboys in scoring for the first time this season in 10 games as Jake Hendricks scored 27. James, though, played all 45 minutes in the overtime loss to Denver. Last week: Denver 90, Wyoming 87 (overtime). This week: East Tennessee State vs. Wyoming at El Paso, Texas (Friday).
9. AIR FORCE (4-6): This Saturday’s game at Michigan will be Air Force’s first game against a Top 25 opponent since it lost to No. 25 Boise State on March 12, 2015. Last week: No game. This week: Air Force at Michigan (Saturday).
10. SAN JOSE STATE (3-6): The Spartans will not leave Northern California until Jan. 9 when they travel to Nevada. San Jose State will play at Stanford and California this week, at Saint Mary’s Dec. 29 and will host Fresno State on Jan. 2. Last week: San Jose State 79, Northern Arizona 74. This week: San Jose State at Stanford (Tuesday), San Jose State at California (Friday).
11. COLORADO STATE (5-6): The Rams can’t wait for the year 2018 to come to an end. Colorado State is 8-20 since Jan. 1, 2018. Last week: South Dakota 68, Colorado State 63. This week: Colorado State at Long Beach State (Saturday).