Nevada Wolf Pack No. 4 to open Mountain West basketball rankings
The Nevada Wolf Pack might have gotten a little overconfident on Sunday.
The Wolf Pack whipped Air Force 74-57 on Friday and were up 33-24 at halftime on Sunday in the second game of the two-game Mountain West series.
“We came out (in the second half) like they were just going to roll over and let us win,” Wolf Pack center K.J. Hymes said of eventual 68-66 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. “They just looked like they wanted it more.”
The Wolf Pack, 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain West, are ranked No. 4 in the first Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings this season. Air Force (3-3, 1-1) is ranked No. 7.
“It was a really tough second half,” Wolf Pack coach Steve Alford said. “They (Air Force) were the tougher team.”
Air Force outscored Nevada 44-33 in the second half at an empty Lawlor Events Center. Air Force, even after Sunday’s game, remains last in the Mountain West in scoring this season at 58 points a game.
“Defensively we weren’t very good,” Alford said. “We were very soft in a lot of areas.”
The Wolf Pack was 2-for-24 on 3-pointers in the loss on their own floor.
“I liked where we were at halftime,” Alford said. “We defended well in the first half. But they came out and just worked harder than we did. They had more pop in what they were doing.”
Air Force got 27 points from A.J. Walker and 18 from Chris Joyce.
“Hands down the two best players on the court were Joyce and Walker,” Alford said. “They ripped us up.”
The Wolf Pack got 18 points from Zane Meeks. Desmond Cambridge had just nine points on 1-of-9 3-point shooting after scoring 27 two nights earlier on seven 3-pointers in the win over the Falcons.
“He’s got to be a key scorer consistently for us,” Alford said. “No question about it. He got in foul trouble and every time that’s happened this season it has disrupted his flow.”
Alford, though, was impressed with Air Force’s work ethic.
“If we can work that hard, good things can happen for us down the road,” Alford said. “It was a valuable lesson.”
San Diego State (5-1, 0-0) is at No. 1 in the rankings despite suffering its first loss of the year, 72-62 to BYU, on Friday. The Aztecs have beaten UCLA (73-58), UC Irvine (77-58), Pepperdine (65-60) and Arizona State (80-68) and have allowed just 59.5 points a game this year.
“We scheduled tough games so we knew there was a chance we could take some lumps,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said.
BYU outrebounded San Diego State 40-26, overcoming 35 points from the Aztecs’ Matt Mitchell.
“That (rebounding) was a huge part of it,” Dutcher said. “We are going to learn from it.”
Mitchell was 12-of-17 from the floor and had five 3-pointers.
“I’ve seen quite a few great performances down through the years but Matt’s was right up there,” Dutcher said. “It was fun to watch Matt put us on his shoulders.”
Mitchell is fifth in the Mountain West in scoring at 16.3 points a game.
“Their defense was fanning out a little and giving me space to work, get to the basket and hit my shot,” Mitchell said. “It seemed like there was a lid on the basket for some of my teammates so I thought I needed to be more aggressive.”
No. 2 Boise State, idle last week, is 4-1 overall with wins over Weber State, BYU and Sam Houston State. No. 3 Wyoming beat Omaha 82-78 last Thursday behind 15 points from Marcus Williams (17.9 points a game) and 14 points and 12 rebounds from Hunter Maldonado. Maldonado leads the Mountain West at 6.9 assists a game and is 15th in scoring at 15.3.
UNLV is ranked No. 5 despite its 1-4 record. The Rebels have played the toughest schedule in the Mountain West this season, beating Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., 68-58, and losing in Asheville, N.C., to North Carolina, Alabama and Davidson.
UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton is second in the Mountain West in scoring at 20.8 points a game. David Jenkins had 25 points and seven 3-pointers in the win over Kansas State.
No. 6 Utah State (3-3) beat Northern Colorado 63-50 last Friday behind 19 points from Marco Anthony and 12 each from Rollie Worster and Justin Bean.
No. 8 Colorado State (2-2) beat Northern Arizona, 91-52, last Monday and lost to St. Mary’s 53-33 on Saturday. The Rams were 2-of-15 on threes against St. Mary’s.
No. 9 New Mexico (3-0) and No. 10 Fresno State (2-0) are unbeaten but have not played a challenging schedule so far. New Mexico beat Our Lady of the Lake and Le Tourneau last week in a tournament in Houston. Fresno State has beaten Fresno Pacific and William Jessup.
No. 11 San Jose State (1-2) did not play last week. The Spartans’ lone victory this year was over Fresno Pacific.
Nevada-Air force has been the only Mountain West series so far this season. New Mexico will be at Boise State on Monday and Wednesday this week while San Jose State will be at Utah State the same nights.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings
1. SAN DIEGO STATE (5-1, 0-0): Last week: BYU 72, San Diego State 62 (Dec. 18). This week: San Diego State at St. Mary’s (Dec. 22).
2. BOISE STATE (4-1, 0-0): Last week: Idle. This week: New Mexico at Boise State (Dec. 21, 23).
3. WYOMING (6-1, 0-0): Last week: Wyoming 82, Omaha 78 (Dec. 17). This week: Idle.
4. NEVADA (6-3, 1-1): Last week: Nevada 79, San Diego 72 (Dec. 14), Nevada 74, Air Force 57 (Dec. 18), Air Force 68, Nevada 66 (Dec. 20). This week: Idle.
5. UNLV (1-4, 0-0): Last week: Idle. This week: Idle.
6. UTAH STATE (3-3, 0-0): Last week: Utah State 63, Northern Colorado 50 (Dec. 18). This week: San Jose State at Utah State (Dec. 21, 23).
7. AIR FORCE (3-3, 1-1): Nevada 74, Air Force 57 (Dec. 18), Air Force 68, Nevada 66 (Dec. 20). This week: Idle.
8. COLORADO STATE (2-2, 0-0): Last week: Colorado State 91, Northern Arizona 52 (Dec. 14), St. Mary’s 53, Colorado State 33 (Dec. 19). This week: Idle.
9. NEW MEXICO (3-0, 0-0): New Mexico 104, Our Lady of the Lake 65 (Dec. 15), New Mexico 90, Le Tourneau 58 (Dec. 17). This week: New Mexico at Boise State (Dec. 21, 23).
10. FRESNO STATE (2-0, 0-0): Last week: Idle. This week: Idle.
11. SAN JOSE STATE (1-2, 0-0): Last week: Idle. This week: San Jose State at Utah State (Dec. 21, 23).