Thanks in part to an incredible stretch of play from Jalen Harris, Nevada men’s basketball have positioned themself for contention heading into the final five games of the season.
Over the last week, Nevada took on two inter-conference foes, defeating both soundly.
Air Force, Feb. 4
Nevada men’s basketball took to Lawlor Events Center on Feb. 4 to take on their inter-conference foe, Air Force. The Wolf Pack blew past the Air Force Falcons, 88-54, in front of over 8,000 fans. After the dismantling of the Falcons, Nevada improves to 14-10 overall and 7-5 in conference play on the season.
Nevada had to perform without their second-leading scorer, as Jazz Johnson was out with injury. The sharpshooter hurt his non-shooting shoulder against Colorado State on Jan. 29.
“We got a day off tomorrow, much needed. We’re gonna be almost at a week, I think we will be right at a week.” Coach Steve Alford said, “He is questionable for Saturday. Hopefully things will go good here over the next three days.”
Nevada, however, did not skip a beat Tuesday night as the Wolf Pack jumped out to an 11-5 lead with 14:24 left in the first half. At that time, Jalen Harris was just seven points into his historic night. In a quick 4 minute span, Nevada went on a 13-4 run to make it 24-9 halfway through the first.
From midway through the first half on, it was all Nevada as the Pack’s lead grew, making it 44-22 at the half. Johncarlos Reyes—paired with Harris—was the special recipe to the early lead. The 6-foot-10 forward managed seven points and six rebounds in just 13 minutes of play in the first half, giving the Pack a powerful front court presence.
“Now JC [Johncarlos], he’s just got to travel with this,” Coach Alford said, “Because I think his game at home has been really good. We just need for him to travel this kind of energy when we are on the road.”
After the half time break, Nevada picked up where they left off and rocketed out to a 67-35 lead.
With 9:58 left in the game, Harris had 33 points and was two points away from matching the Falcons’ total score. Harris certainly had a night to remember, as by the end of the game, he finished with a new career-high in points with 38.
Harris is averaging a conference-high 20.9 points per game. Tuesday night brought more history for Harris as he became the fourth player in Nevada D-I history to have five 30 point games in one season and the only one to have three straight 30 point games.
“He is in a special groove right now and hopefully we can ride this groove for a while,” coach Alford said, “Cause he is very talented, he works very very hard at his game and it’s good seeing that, when someone works that hard to produce like this.”
Harris praised his teammates and coaches after his historic night scoring.
“My teammates have been doing a good job of finding me,” Harris said. “Coaches have been doing a good job of putting me in these opportunities to make plays. That’s what it’s been for these past few games. Just trying to do whatever I need to do for us to win.”
By the time it was all said and done, Nevada took care of the Falcons and snapped a two-game losing streak.
San Jose State, Feb. 8
The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team picked up their second win in a row with a 95-77 victory over the Spartans of San Jose St. University.
Junior guard Jalen Harris, who is coming off a 38 point game against Air Force, continued his dominant scoring steak. Harris ended the night with 32 points on 13-23 shooting from the field and 5-10 from behind the three-point line. Harris also finished with five rebounds and three assists.
Harris has scored over 30 points in four consecutive games. This was also the sixth game this season scoring over 30 points. Harris has led the Pack in scoring 16 times this season. Additionally, Harris has scored double-digit point totals in his last 21 games.
Senior Jazz Johnson returned after missing two games due to a shoulder injury. He finished the game with 13 points, propelled by 3-7 from behind the three-point line, making this game his sixteenth game this season with three or more three-pointers.
Lindsey Drew led the team in rebounds for the fourteenth time this season, finishing the night with eight rebounds. Drew also led the team in assists with seven on the night, and had five points on the night. Drew is seven assists away from 500 total assists in his career at Nevada.
Senior Nisré Zouzoua finished the night with 15 points. This is his second game in a row with 15 points and his thirteenth game this season with double-digit points. Freshman Kane Milling contributed to the scoring as well, finishing the night with 11 points—his first time with a double-digit point total this season.
The victory over San Jose State pushes Nevada to 15-10 on the season and 8-5 in Mountain West conference play. The win marks 19 consecutive home victories over inter-conference opponents and the Pack is 32-2 in their last 34 home conference games.
Rebounding proved to be the key to victory, with the Wolf Pack out-rebounding the Spartans 45-30. Five Nevada players finished the night with five or more rebounds. The Pack have now won nine of the previous ten matchups against the Spartans and are 61-49 overall against them.
Nevada now travels down south to Las Vegas to face their intrastate rivals, UNLV. The last meeting between the two saw the Wolf Pack come out on top, with Nevada winning 86-72. Nevada has won the last five meetings against UNLV and is looking to stretch their current win streak to three in a row.
For Harris’ efforts over the last week of play, he was named the Mountain West Player of the Week on Feb. 10.
Jory Richardson and Austin Paschke can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.