Game Recap: Nevada 88, Air Force 54
Jalen Harris and company step up in a bounce back win over Air Force at home.
The Wolf Pack looked very comfortable behind a solid defensive team effort and solid overall play from Harris.
The Wolf Pack bounced back in a big way against Air Force at home in Lawlor Events Center Tuesday night in a 88-54 win over the visiting Falcons. Nevada lost both games on the road last week, one in a 91-92 heart breaker against the Rams in Fort Collins on Wednesday and on Saturday in Boise 64-73. The Wolf Pack hasn’t fared well away from home, with a combined 1-7 record
on the road this season. But they knew it would be a different story on Tuesday night, because they were back at home and facing the Air Force Falcons who were in sole possession of seventh place at 3-7 in conference play.
The Wolf Pack have had some success in the Lawlor Events Center going 9-2 at home this season. First year head coach Steve Alford and company had no intention of changing that narrative as the team rallied behind an impressive offensive performance from their star junior guard Jalen Harris. The former Louisiana Tech Bulldog and Musselman import has been the center piece of a relatively young and inexperienced squad this season.
Harris who almost transferred out the program upon learning of former head coach Eric Musselman’s new gig in the SEC ultimately decided to stay in Reno and is looking at a first-team all-Mountain West Conference finish and maybe a run at either player of the year or newcomer of the year.
His performance on Tuesday was phenomenal, finishing with 38 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 36 minutes of play. He also got others involved by distributing the basketball while drawing double teams on almost every possession and freeing up his bigs down low.
Harris has been able to do a little bit of everything for Nevada this season, he’s got a terrific motor, can drive the ball, distribute it and shoot it from anywhere. And after his 38-point performance is the only Wolf Pack player in program history with five 30-point plus performances in the same season.
But like I said he got everyone some touches, with a little bit of everyone playing solid minutes on Tuesday night. Senior guard Lindsey drew was a defensive force all night, ending the night with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks while also netting his 900th career point and grabbing his 600th rebound all of which has come in Reno.
While senior guard and the team’s second leading scorer Jazz Johnson sat out his second consecutive game due to injury, others stepped up. Others like fellow senior guard Nisre Zouzoua who played well with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal on the night.
Last week’s Wolf Pack squad looked out of sorts, plus without one of their top scorers and team leaders on Saturday just survived the week. But this Nevada team looked different, they were confident, knocked down shots and played hard on both sides of the floor. Not only outscoring the Falcons but out rebounding them 49-29. Like most other teams in the Mountain West this season they have enjoyed ups and ridden out downs, but if they can find a rhythm and star guard Jalen Harris continues his current level of play, watch out.
The Falcons looked flat out defeated most of the night. After trailing the Wolf Pack 44-22 at the half didn’t show any more fight in the second half, shooting 19-58 from the field (32.8%) and only knocking down 50% of their free throws. Lavelle Scottie was the only Falcon in double figures last night with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals on the night, while the four other starters combined for only 17 points on 5-23 shooting overall.
Air Force has played like two different teams at times this season, upsetting some teams and losing by thirty-four to others. The team should take advantage of Scottie and Swan’s presence down low for the remainder of the season, as both seniors won’t be around next season and the frontcourt will look a lot different.
The Falcons now turn their attention to the big fish coming into Colorado Springs this weekend. As the No. 4 ranked San Diego State Aztecs make their way west for a 6:00 PM MST showdown in Clune Arena on Saturday. It may seem just a bit repetitive at this point but we all know what’s at stake, the chance to knock off the undefeated Aztecs and on top of that doing it at home! The Falcons enjoy a 6-5 record at home and have upset both Boise State and Utah State at Clune Arena this season. Let’s see if Dave Pilipovich and company can make it 23-1 for the Aztecs on Saturday.
After tonight’s 34-point win the Wolf Pack get a shot at either redemption or revenge this weekend, your call. As Nevada plays host to the San Jose State Spartans who back on January 8th handed the Wolf Pack their first loss in conference play on the road in San Jose. So a month later there is a bit more up for grabs than meets the eye in Saturday’s game in Reno. Tip-off is at 5:00 PM MST.