Skip to main content
Zoe Malen / Nevada Sagebrush

The No. 23 Nevada men’s basketball team was eliminated from the Mountain West Conference Tournament on March 14 after falling short to the Colorado State Rams 85-78. This loss marked the Pack’s second consecutive one-and-done appearance in the tournament.

To set the tone for the night, both teams exchanged free throws, tying the game at 1-1. Nick Davidson, Nevada forward, powered his way through the paint and executed a one-handed layup for the game’s first basket.

Davidson followed that up with a steal from Josiah Strong, Colorado State forward, and passed the ball to Kenan Blackshear, Nevada guard. Blackshear found his backcourt partner Jarod Lucas for a step-back quick release jumper. The Pack surged to a 5-1 lead with 17:52 in the first half.

Down early, the Ram’s offense was ignited by its guard play. Nique Clifford buried a dunk and put in a layup to get started. Isaiah Stevens connected on a long two and splashed a three right afterward, and Joe Palmer converted on a contested layup to cap off an 11-0 run for the Rams. 

The Pack faced its first deficit of the game as they trailed 12-5 after being unable to get a bucket for five minutes. The Lucas sank a 40-foot three-pointer to end the drought. Two fouls on Colorado State allowed K.J. Hymes and Tylan Pope, Nevada forwards, to tie the game 12-12 as 10:48 remained in the half.

As both teams exchanged scores, a Hymes foul set up a three-point play from Joel Scott, Colorado State forward, that made the difference as the Rams edged out the Pack on an 11-7 run. A free throw from Blackshear made it a one-possession game at 23-20 with 5:36 to play.

While they managed to keep the score close, the Pack’s performance faltered. Three consecutive fouls handed the Rams easy opportunities to extend their lead from the line, which helped them pull out to a 30-20 advantage. Despite this, Nevada still seemed to have some fight left, as a Lucas baseline jumper provided a possible glimpse of a rally, cutting the lead to eight.

However, the Rams swiftly responded, as Jalen Lake, Colorado State guard, sank a three-pointer on the next play. Although the Pack capitalized on mistakes made by the Rams, going 6-6 from the line, the impact was negated by back-to-back triples from Lake. Nevada found themselves in a deeper hole at 41-28 with 0:41 left in the first half.

Despite three late free throws from Tyler Rolison, Nevada guard, the Pack was still down by double digits as they trailed 43-33 at the break. Lucas led the Pack in scores with 12 points on 4-6 shooting. 

Down 10, Nevada needed a strong response out of the gate. Blackshear opened the second half with a pull-up mid-range jumper to get the Pack started. Tre Coleman, Nevada forward, converted on a triple, and Blackshear put in another jumper to cut the deficit to five. Lucas followed up with a layup, and Davidson finished at the rim before putting in an and-one after a foul. The Pack cut the lead to two at 47-45 with 17:17 remaining.

Right as it seemed momentum had swung in favor of Nevada, Colorado State came back. Strong sparked the Rams offense with a deep three-pointer, Stevens connected on a three of his own and Palmer added to the onslaught with another three to contribute to a 19-7 run for the Rams.  

During this stretch, the Pack’s offense was cold. They shot 2-10 from the field and committed four fouls. The troubles continued to pile up as Davidson picked up his fourth foul and the Pack fell behind 66-52 as 10:25 remained.

Despite the Pack’s efforts to claw their way back into the game with late free throws, the Rams relentlessly found a way to match them every single time. Nevada ultimately fell by a score of 85-78.

“It isn’t easy losing the way that we did,” Lucas said in a post-game press conference. “We beat them twice this year and knew they would come out and give us their best shot. It sucks, but the good thing about basketball is we get another opportunity, and us seniors, me and Kenan, get that when we get to the NCAA Tournament.”

In a physical contest, the Pack were outworked on multiple fronts. Early foul trouble plagued three starters, those being Blackshear, Davidson and Hymes. With starters wary of fouling out, they adopted a softer defensive approach, which left gaps that the Rams exploited.

Consequently, the bench struggled to find rhythm, as they totaled 21 points on 36 percent shooting while the Ram’s bench exploded with 35 points on 65 percent shooting. Colorado State capitalized on the opportunities given to them as well. Nevada committed 15 turnovers and struggled to grab defensive rebounds. This allowed the Rams to have eight more shot attempts than the Pack, which greatly contributed to their 19 second-chance points compared to Nevada’s 11. 

“The last two and a half months have been an unbelievable stretch of good basketball in the Mountain West conference,” Steve Alford, head coach of the Nevada men’s basketball team, said. “Obviously, we’re distraught about not playing another game in the conference tournament. but I like what our guys have done. The NCAA Tournament is about matchups. We’ll be praying for a good seed and a good matchup.”

The Pack awaits their final seed in the NCAA Tournament, which will be revealed during Selection Sunday on March 14 at 3 p.m.

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

Leave a Reply