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Zoe Malen / Nevada Sagebrush

Jarod Lucas, Nevada guard, pulled off the most impressive shot of the Pack’s season, as he banked a half-court three-pointer in the final 2 ½ seconds on Feb. 27 — stunning the Colorado State Rams, running away with a 77-74 victory. The exhilarating win keeps the Wolf Pack in fourth place in the Mountain West Conference, with an overall record of 23-6 and a conference record of 10-5.

Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State guard, opened the scoring for the Rams, spacing out the Wolf Pack defense for a corner three. 

Despite being down early, the Pack still responded with Lucas converting on a turn-around jumper and Hunter McIntosh, Nevada guard, in his first start of the season, splashing back-to-back threes. Giving the Wolf Pack an 8-3 lead with 17:25 in the first.

However, Jalen Lake and Nique Clifford, Colorado State guards, countered with triples of their own. Lucas fired a contested jumper and made two free-throws right after to make it a three point game. Stevens made a tough floater on the Ram’s next possession to make it 12-11 with 13:12 to play.

Swinging with momentum, the Wolf Pack needed to regroup. K.J. Hymes and Tre Coleman, Nevada forwards, joined the scoring, as Coleman dished a pass out to Hymes for a dunk, then euro-stepped through two Ram defenders for a layup.

Lucas continued his hot start with a step-back three to cap off a 7-0 run with the Pack taking a 19-11 lead with 10:56 left.

Both teams exchanged scores in a sequence that saw Daniel Foster, Nevada forward, space the defense and connect on two layups. Lucas knocked down his second three-pointer of the game in this stretch, which saw the Pack hold a nine point lead at 28-19 as 5:38 remained.

Although Nevada continued to maintain their lead, Colorado State did not go away. Stevens powered the Rams back, as he motioned Coleman away for a long three. Stevens scored a layup on their next possession, and all of a sudden, it was a four point game.

After a tough defensive series, Coleman responded. While double-teamed in the paint, Coleman still found a way to finish on the play, for a tough layup. On the next series, he converted on a contested three while being fouled, which allowed for a four point play. The Pack led 34-26 with 1:34 left.

The three-ball continued to land for Nevada, as Foster scored his seventh point off the bench off of a three point shot. Tyler Rolison, Nevada guard, hit a jumper to close the scoring for the first half. Lucas led both teams with 12 points and four rebounds to give the Wolf Pack an 11 point halftime lead at 39-28.

Down multiple possessions, the Rams came out firing to begin the second half. Joel Scott, Colorado State forward, hit a contested layup in the paint to open the half. After a missed jumper from Lucas, Josiah Strong, Colorado State guard, laid in a transition two, which cut Nevada’s lead to 39-32 in the opening minute.

As Colorado State began to heat up, Lucas tried for a long three that just escaped the rim. However, Nick Davidson, Nevada forward, snagged the rebound and found Coleman, who fired up a three of his own to end the Ram’s run. The Pack maintained a 10-point advantage 42-32 with 18:14 to go.

A cold shooting stretch from Nevada quickly ensued after Coleman’s three. This stretch saw the Pack go 0-5 from the field and allowed the Rams to take advantage, as Stevens made a line pass to Scott for a layup to cap off a 5-0 run.

As the lead slowly dwindled, the Wolf Pack needed a spark. Foster answered that call, as he grabbed an offensive rebound after a miss from Rolison and splashed an open three. Nevada led 45-37 with 13:48 left in the half.

The Rams moved fast on their next possession to answer the Pack’s score. But Nevada’s zone defense confused Lake, who passed the ball right into Rolison’s arms for a steal. Having stolen momentum, Rolison passed to Lucas in an attempt for a fast break score. He was fouled during his shooting motion which sent him to the line. Lucas made all three of his free throws to prop the Wolf Pack up to an 11 point advantage at 48-37 as 13:20 remained.

Despite being down by 11 points, Colorado State continued to find ways to climb back into the game. Stevens continued to be a problem, as he landed a tough layup between the defense to make it 48-39 at 12:59.

After only four free throws were called in the first half, both the Wolf Pack and Rams were awarded three trips to the line on three consecutive possessions. Hymes would have the only miss over this stretch, as the Rams continued to chip away to make it 53-45 with 11:12 left. 

The back-and-forth action continued, as both teams scored nine points in large part due to free-throws. McIntosh sank two more at the line to hold Nevada’s lead at 63-54 as 7:13 remained.

Another Wolf Pack shooting slump saw them go for 0-6 from the field. The Rams again capitalized off of Nevada’s mistakes, as Stevens drove to the paint putting up a layup while being fouled by McIntosh. This allowed Colorado State to pull within two points at 63-61 with 3:23 on the clock.

With the Wolf Pack in desperate need of any score, McIntosh drove right by Stevens, connecting on a jumper to end the scoring drought. Davidson made his first appearance on the scoreboard, converting on two free throws to put Nevada up by six at 67-61 in the final 2:08.

Despite regaining possession following a missed three from Clifford, Lucas committed a turnover on the Pack’s next possession. This allowed Stevens to work his way for a long-range jumper to make it a four-point game at 67-63 with 1:37 left.

In need of an answer, Lucas found Coleman, who nailed a low arching three giving Nevada a seven-point lead at 70-63 as 1:08 remained. Forced to move fast, Stevens continued to lead the Rams offense, as he found Scott underneath the rim for a layup making it 70-65 with 51 seconds left.

As the clock winded down under a minute, Colorado State was forced to foul. Foster was fouled and went 1-2 at the line. The Rams powered their way down the court on their next possession and forced a foul off Coleman, who picked up his fifth of the game and thus fouled out. Both teams traded a pair of free throws on their next possession which saw the lead hold at 73-67 with the clock at 0:29.

The Rams sprinted down the court, which caught the Wolf Pack defense off guard, this left Clifford wide open for a corner three, to make it a one-score game at 73-70 with 0:22 left.

Despite their lead being reduced to a single possession, all the Wolf Pack needed to do was convert on their remaining free throws and they would win. Due to this, they inbounded the ball to Lucas, a 90+ percent free throw shooter on the season. He went 1-2 on his attempts, but still managed to bring it back to a two score game at 74-70 with 18 seconds left.

On the Rams’ next possession, Stevens burst to the opposite end of the court and he nailed a turn-around jumper to make it a two-point game at 74-72 as only 11 seconds remained.

The Wolf Pack went back to their same play design, with the inbound going to Lucas who was then sent to the line. With the crowd on its feet, he missed the first free throw. And after taking a breather, he missed the second as well.

With the entire arena behind him, Stevens reached for the rebound and ran down the court. With less than four seconds remaining, he took a step back one-legged jumper that tied the game at 74 with 2 ½ seconds on the clock.

In need of an absolute miracle and down two starters, the Wolf Pack did not let previous plays define them as they put the ball back into Lucas’ hands. As he caught the inbound, Lucas raced down the sideline and heaved the ball from just beyond half-court. The shot banked off the backboard and into the net to seal victory at the buzzer 77-74.

Lost in the dramatics of the game, Nevada handed Colorado State their first home loss in conference play. Doing so without their second-leading scorer, Kenan Blackshear, Nevada guard, who missed the game with a calf injury, and Davidson, who only scored two points against the Rams after averaging 18 points over the last four games. 

The offense still clicked across the board, as McIntosh filled in the starting guard role with 14 points and Foster contributed 13 points off the bench. Coleman recorded 16 points on 6-8 shooting and Lucas led the team with 23 points and seven rebounds despite late free-throw misses.

“I knew something had to be up,” Lucas said in an interview after the game. “And then when I made that shot, I was like ‘The Lord had to have known something,’ because I missed two free-throws and I missed long. I couldn’t believe I missed long at the end of the game. For the ball to go through the basket and win in a road atmosphere, that was pretty crazy.”

Nevada men’s basketball is on a roll, with wins in seven of their last eight games. After securing their season sweep over Colorado State, the Pack appear to be marching toward their second March Madness tournament appearance in a row.

The Wolf Pack’s next challenge will come at home, as they take on the Fresno State Bulldogs (11-17, 4-11 MWC) on March 1 at 7:30 p.m.

James Wolfgang Perez can be reached via email or via Twitter @JamesWPerezUNR

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