In the biggest game of the season, to date, Nevada men’s basketball fell short to the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
Nevada’s second-half struggles cost them a potential victory in the 68-63 loss.
The Wolf Pack marched into halftime with a 38-35 lead over the Gaels. Saint Mary’s had only trailed at the half in four of its first 12 contests heading into the match. Nevada shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half—the third-highest for any first half this season and the highest since Friday, Dec. 7 at Air Force.
After an electric first half, Nevada waltzed out of halftime ice cold. After a layup on the first possession by Lindsey Drew, the Pack missed 10 of its next 12 shots, trailing 50-45 with 11 minutes remaining.
In a sport where momentum is incredibly fleeting in bunches, the Wolf Pack battled back and flipped the momentum back onto their side. They canned their next four field goals inside the paint, capped off by an and-one layup from Jalen Harris to gain a 57-54 advantage with 5:54 remaining.
This is when things fell apart for the Pack.
Back-to-back jumpers by Malik Fitts put the Gaels ahead 58-57 with just under five minutes remaining. Saint Mary’s did not trail the remainder of the game, going on an 8-2 run after a Jordan Ford jumper, putting the Gaels ahead 66-59 with 54 seconds remaining.
Nevada missed seven of its final nine field goals, shooting a lowly 31 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc in the second half.
The Wolf Pack sported a 42.9 percent overall field goal percentage, including 37.5 percent from deep.
Jazz Johnson led the Pack with 17 points on 6-13 shooting. After shooting a combined 21.4 percent from deep in the three most recent contests, the 5-foot-10 sharpshooter found his stride again, canning three three-point shots on five attempts. Johnson has sunk multiple three-point attempts in nine games of the 13 games he’s played in this season.
Jalen Harris and Zane Meeks were the only other two Pack members to eclipse double digits. Harris added 13 points on 6-17 shooting, hauling in a team-high eight rebounds. Meeks tallied 10 points on 3-4 shooting off the bench.
The Pack will have to rebound from their second-half dip, as they are scheduled to take on Colorado on New Year’s Day.
Matt Hanifan can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.