Jalen Harris and Zane Meeks dives for the basketball during a scrimmage against Cal State, East Bay. Harris led the Pack in total points, 21, while Meeks led the team in rebounds with 14.
Ryan Freeberg/Nevada Sagebrush. Nevada’s Jalen Harris (No. 2) and No. 15 Zane Meeks dives for the ball against a Cal State, East Bay defender. Nevada men’s basketball played its first game in the Steve Alford era on Saturday night against the Pioneers.

In the first game since losing to Florida in the NCAA Tournament last season, Nevada basketball took the court. The Pack defeated California State East Bay 81-52, in an exhibition game at Lawlor Events Center.

Junior guard Jalen Harris, a Louisiana Tech transfer who sat out last season due to the NCAA transfer rules, led the Pack with 21 points on 6-13 shooting—including 3-5 from deep—along with eight rebounds. 

“It felt great, honestly,” Harris said. “It felt good to win. It felt good to play with my teammates, my friends, my brothers. It was a good night.”

Senior guard Nisre Zouzoua took the opportunity to showcase his ability. After averaging 20.3 points per game at Bryant in his sophomore campaign in the 2016-17 season, Zouzoua only averaged 1.3 points per game on 22 percent shooting in only six minutes of action in his first season of eligibility at Nevada. The 6-foot-2 guard put together 16 points on 5-7 shooting, including 2-3 from deep. 

“It feels good to just go out there and finally show people what I can do honestly,” Zouzoua said. “When Coach Alford came in, he just told me that he believes in me and just to put my season behind and just focus on getting better and being the best player I can be.”

Freshman center Zane Meeks was the only member of the Pack to tally a double-double. The 6-foot-10-inch freshman hauled in 14 rebounds, adding ten points of his own and making 3-7 shooting from deep. 

Senior guard Lindsey Drew took to the floor for his first action since the 2017-18 season after recovering from a ruptured Achilles. He totaled five points on 1-4 shooting, hauling in six rebounds and dished out four assists. 

Nevada shot 43.1 percent in the game, compared to CSEB’s 32.2 percent. Nevada was also much more efficient from behind the arc, shooting 41.9 percent on 21 attempts. Meanwhile, CSEB shot only 22.2 percent from that range. 

The Pack crashed the glass throughout the night, out-rebounding the Pioneers 51-33. 35 of Nevada’s 81 points came from the bench. Nevada did solid work getting out on the break and scoring, outscoring the Pioneers on the fastbreak, 17-3. 

CSEB got out to an electric start, scoring the first eight points of the contest. Alford’s group responded, going on a 15-0 run and closed the half on a 27-7 run. The run was kicked off by a layup from Johncarlos Reyes, who started at center. The 6-foot-10-inch senior, a graduate transfer from Boston College, tallied nine points and hauled in eight rebounds in 27 minutes of play. 

“We just had to come together,” Harris said about responding to adversity. “As a team we had mini huddles, or even timeout huddles, and we just talk and try to encourage each other.”

The Pack walked into halftime with a 27-15 lead, shooting 26.9 percent, including 20.0 percent from three-point range. CSEB got back into the contest, cutting Nevada’s lead to 36-32 with 14:20 left in the second half. It was the closest margin they would get in the second half.

Nevada caught fire, filled with excellent ball movement, finding open looks from distance and receiving strong contributions from the bench. The team shot 60 percent in the second half, including 63.6 percent from behind the arc, holding CSEB to 42.9 percent shooting. Nevada received 24 second-half bench points and ten assists en route to a 54-point second half. 

Making seven of its next nine shots—capped off by two consecutive corner threes by Zousoua— Nevada extended its lead to 55-44.

From that point on, Nevada didn’t look back. They stormed on to a 19-2 run, knocking down shot-after-shot while forcing multiple turnovers on the defensive end. They closed the final ten minutes of the game on a 34-11 run in the victory. 

“I thought inside ten minutes, we ran as well as we’ve ran all night off misses,” Alford said. “I thought we were a little slow off misses up until that point. From the ten minute mark down, I thought we really ran in transition. That’s going to a key for us.”

Nevada men’s basketball next takes to the court on Oct. 30, when they host Colorado Christian in another scrimmage. 

Matt Hanifan can be reached at rfreeberg@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @SagebrushSports