Pack fends off Boise; faces SDSU next
LAS VEGAS — Nevada got an early scare in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals.
After trailing Boise State by 15 points in the first half, the Wolf Pack slowly responded. And not until the final minute of the game — did they feel comfortable.
Jazz Johnson scored 20 points, Caleb Martin had 19 and No. 14 Nevada rallied to beat Boise State 77-69 on Thursday.
Tre’Shawn Thurman added 17 points, and Cody Martin had 10 to help top-seeded Nevada (29-3) tie the school record for victories in a season. The Wolf Pack will face San Diego State in the semifinals Friday night. The Aztecs beat UNLV, 63-55, in a quarterfinal game on Thursday.
Derrick Alston led Boise State (13-20) with 21 points, and Justinian Jessup had 18.
Boise State led 11-3 and had a 27-12 advantage with 7:37 left in the first half. The Wolf Pack opened 2 of 14 from the field.
“We stunk for the first 12 minutes of the game,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “It was hard to watch. I’d rather go the dentist and get some teeth pulled. But the thing with our ballclub is down 15, no panic. We’ve been in those situations where we’ve gotten down and figured away to come from behind on a big stage. At halftime, we got our minds cleared.”
Down 34-29 at intermission, Nevada shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, going 5 of 11 from 3-point range.
“In the three games we lost, we never found that spurt,” Musselman said. “Today, we found that spurt. I want to compliment (Boise State) coach Leon Rice, he had them over prepared. They didn’t back down.”
After the Wolf Pack took a 57-50 lead with 9:33 left, the Broncos went on a 10-0 run. Nevada took the lead for good on Cody Martin’s jumper with 3:37 left. The Wolf Pack slowly pulled away, converting all eight free throws in the final 51 seconds.
BOISE LOOKS TO FUTURE
The Broncos hung around thanks to 8-of-17 shooting from 3-point range and an 11-of-13 mark from the free-throw line.
“Nevada has big-time tough guys, big-time character,” said Rice, who now looks ahead to next season. “(As for the season), there were positives. A lot of teams would be able to do what went through. We got our hearts ripped out many times. We competed night in and night out. (Alston and Jessup) have some great days ahead of them. That’s a heck of a cornerstone going ahead.”
The Wolf Pack split with San Diego State in the regular season, with each winning at home.
“Tomorrow, we have to come with the same mindset we did in the second half,” Thurman said. “Both teams are well coached.”
Musselman said he would watch the San Diego State-UNLV game.
“We’ll go back after this game and get our preparation going,” he said. “Both teams are talented. Every game is a big-time challenge this time of year.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Nevada: The comeback win was tied the team’s season mark from 15, also rallying against then No. 20 Arizona in December. Coach Eric Musselman is 6-2 in the MWC tournament.
Boise State: The Broncos are 8-51 against AP Top 25 teams. Marcus Dickinson had 12 points, while Zach Haney, who fouled out with 4:44 left, had 10.
Nevada will face the San Diego State in the semifinals Friday.