RENO — Lindsey Drew is quickly making up for lost time.
The Nevada Wolf Pack senior, who missed all of last season because of injuries, scored 24 points to go along with seven assists and nine rebounds Saturday night in a 72-67 victory over the Loyola Marymount Lions in front of a crowd of 8,136 at Lawlor Events Center.
Drew has now scored 54 points this season in two games, going over 20 points each time for the first time in his career. He has also led the Pack in scoring assists and rebounds in both games this season.
“I just play my game,” said the soft-spoken Drew, who is averaging 27 points a game this season after averaging 6.3 a game over his first three seasons.
“I don’t know if I anticipated this from him because I hadn’t seen him play a game,” said coach Steve Alford, whose Wolf Pack is now 1-1. “Lindsey will be the first to tell you that he likes games a lot more than he likes practices. But I did say that I believe he can be the best point guard in the Mountain West and I really believe that.”
Drew had just seven points on 2-of-4 shooting in the first half and also had just one assist while turning the ball over four times in 15 minutes. That all changed in the second 20 minutes.
“Lindsey was really special in the second half,” Alford said. “He’s had a great start (to the season).
The 6-foot-4 point guard scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting with six assists and just one turnover in 18 second half minutes as the Wolf Pack led for the final 10 minutes of the game.
“We are kind of shorthanded right now with Jalen out,” Drew said. “So I knew I had to help out a little more on offense. But I still want to do what I do, that’s run the offense and play defense.”
The Pack beat Loyola Marymount without junior guard Jalen Harris, who missed the game with a foot injury suffered during the 79-74 season-opening loss to Utah on Tuesday.
“We’re only playing eight guys right now,” Alford said. “That’s why I am so proud of the way these guys did what they had to do to win this game. They did a real nice job inside 10 minutes.”
“We just kept fighting,” said Pack guard Jazz Johnson, who scored 20 points on four 3-pointers.
The Wolf Pack never led in the first half as the Lions built a 36-32 lead at the break. Johnson led the Pack at halftime with 14 points in 19 minutes making 4-of-8 from the floor. The senior made a pair of threes and all four of his free throws to keep the Pack close throughout the first 20 minutes.
Marymount (1-1), which will play three (Nevada, Colorado State, Air Force) Mountain West teams in a 13-day stretch ending on Nov. 21, jumped out to an 8-0 lead two minutes into the game. Erik Johansson and Ivan Alipiev both hit 3-pointers to key the run. The Pack’s Johnson, though, connected for his first three and added a lay-up to cut the Lions’ lead to 11-8 just two minutes later.
Marymount, which plays in the West Coast Conference, led by as many as nine (19-10) six minutes into the game but threes by Johnson and Drew and a jumper from the left corner by Johnson sliced that deficit to just 19-18 with just under 11 minutes to play in the half.
The Wolf Pack would cut Marymount’s lead to just a point once again in the first half at 33-32 on a Nisre Zouzoua free throw with a minute left.
“I didn’t like our overall demeanor in the first half,” Alford said. “There were some loose balls we didn’t get and we’re still not taking charges, which is something we need to do.”
The Pack did finally take its first lead of the game at 41-40 on a jumper by Johncarlos Reyes with 17:11 to play after Zouzoua drained a 3-pointer to cut the Lions’ lead to just 40-39 less than a minute earlier.
That Pack lead, though, didn’t last long. Jonathan Dos Anjos hit a jumper and Alipiev had a layup and a free throw as Marymount took a 45-41 lead with 15 minutes to play.
The Pack then took control of the game as Drew began to assert himself offensively.
Drew converted a 3-point play to pull the Pack within 45-44 with 12:11 to go and Johnson hit back-to-back threes 79 seconds apart to give Nevada a 50-47 lead with 10:14 to go. Johnson finished with 20 points on four 3-pointers.
The Pack would never trail again.
Drew then scored six consecutive Pack points on two layups and a pair of free throws over a stretch of just 69 seconds as the Wolf Pack built a 56-49 lead with just under eight minutes to play. Drew also drained a 3-pointer off a feed from Johnson for a 59-52 Wolf Pack lead with 7:19 to play.
Drew then returned to his more familiar role as facilitator, feeding Reyes for a dunk and a layup as the Pack took a commanding 63-53 lead with 4:48 to play. Reyes also had a dunk off a pass from Zouzoua as the Wolf Pack led 67-55 with four minutes to go.
The Lions did cut the Pack lead to just 67-62 with 1:14 to go on a 3-pointer by Alipiev. But it was Drew who secured the victory, hitting a jumper with 49 seconds to go, a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left and another free throw with 13 seconds to play.
“It’s hard to win in college basketball,” said Alford, who has a career record of 588-299 as a head coach. “This was huge for us. You don’t get this one and maybe some of your inexperienced players are starting to question everything.”
The Wolf Pack also got key contributions from Robby Robinson, who tied Drew with a team-high nine rebounds to go along with six points and a steal in 22 minutes, and Reyes, who had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 21 minutes. Freshman K.J. Hymes also had four blocks in 18 minutes.
“Those guys all gave us great minutes,” Alford said.
The Wolf Pack shot 50 per cent (14-of-28) in the second half and finished at 43 percent (24-of-56) for the game. The Pack also outrebounded Loyola Marymount 40-30 after getting outrebounded by Utah 51-32 on Tuesday.
“We made improvements on the backboards,” Alford said. “Some of the areas which were points of emphasis, our guys did a good job of responding to.”
The Wolf Pack had one more field goal (24-23), one more 3-pointer (7-6) and two more successful free throws (17-15) than the Lions.
“We’re kind of trying to come together on the fly,” Johnson said.
The victory over the Lions made sure the Pack avoided its first 0-2 start to a season since 2011-12. The Pack is now also 43-3 at Lawlor Events Center since the start of the 2017-18 season.
“I told the guys in the locker room to appreciate this first win,” Drew said. “It definitely feels good.”
The Wolf Pack’s four-game homestand to start the season will conclude with games against Texas-Arlington on Tuesday and USC next Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.