Grades: Nobody in MW playing better than Pack

Nevada’s Jarod Lucas (2), who was recognized before Friday’s game for scoring more than 2,000 points in his Wolf Pack career, takes a long jump shot against Fresno State in the first half of their in Friday night’s game between Nevada and the Bulldogs.  Nevada won 74-66 at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada’s Jarod Lucas (2), who was recognized before Friday’s game for scoring more than 2,000 points in his Wolf Pack career, takes a long jump shot against Fresno State in the first half of their in Friday night’s game between Nevada and the Bulldogs. Nevada won 74-66 at Lawlor Events Center.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 74-66 men’s basketball victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs at Lawlor Events Center on Friday . . .


Lucas, with his five-year career coming to a close sometime this month, is going out in style. The 6-3 shooting guard was 7-of-12 from the floor with three 3-pointers against Fresno State and finished with 21 points. He’s now scored 20 or more points in his last three games, one short of his career-best four-game streak back in late December.Lucas missed as many as two shots in a row just once, midway through the first half. His three 3-pointers gave the Pack leads of 31-18 in the first half and 45-32 and 62-47 early in the second half.Why Lucas was on the floor for the entire second half (and the last 25-plus minutes of the game) didn’t make much sense. The Pack, after all, led by double digits for the bulk of the half and was never threatened. Why risk injury in a blowout to your best shooter with much more important games coming just around the corner?

Almost all of McIntosh’s contributions to this victory took place in a span of just 1:43 early in the second half when he drained three 3-pointers. He finished with 12 points on four threes to go along with four assists, a rebound and four fouls in his second consecutive game as the fill-in starting point guard for injured Kenan Blackshear.McIntosh went to the bench for just under three minutes midway through the second half and came back to the court with the Pack up 62-47 with nine minutes to play. His final nine minutes, though, consisted of three missed shots (two threes) and two fouls as Fresno State outscored the Pack 19-12 to make the final score respectable.While McIntosh isn’t the playmaker or physical presence that Blackshear brings to the floor, he is a much better shooter, giving opponents fits trying to determine which guard to defend (Lucas or McIntosh) on the perimeter.

Davidson’s offense returned to the Land of the Living on Friday after a 2-point performance in 36 minutes on Tuesday at Colorado State. The 6-8 sophomore scored 19 points against Fresno State on clean 7-of-9 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and a block.The absence of Blackshear at Colorado State likely had much to do with Davidson’s disappearance on offense. Blackshear was still missing on Friday but it must be noted that all of Davidson’s seven field goals against the Bulldogs were assist by someone other than McIntosh.Five of Davidson’s field goals came in the paint with the assists going to Daniel Foster (two), Tyler Rolison (two) and Jarod Lucas. Davidson’s two threes came off feeds from Tre Coleman and K.J. Hymes.Davidson’s only misses from the floor on Friday came on 3-point attempts.

Nevada guard Tre Coleman (4) dribbles around Fresno State’s Xavier DuSell (53) in Friday night’s game between Nevada and the Bulldogs.  Nevada won 74-66 at Lawlor Events Center.

Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group


Coleman’s shot was a little off (just 2-of-7 from the floor) and his career-best 12-game streak with at least one 3-pointer came to an end (9-for-3). But the 6-7 forward put his stamp on this game just the same.Coleman against the Bulldogs was equal parts power forward (career-high four blocks and six rebounds) and point guard (six assists) and consistently filled whatever role the Pack needed of him.He also finished with six points, three fouls and two turnovers in his 34 minutes. All three of his 3-point misses came in the first half, two in the final two minutes.

Hymes played just 14 minutes and contributed two points and three rebounds. He was most productive in the first two minutes of the second half when he rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Fresno’s Xavier DuSell and fed teammate Nick Davidson for a 3-pointer and 1:22 later jammed home a dunk off a pass from Tre Coleman.Hymes also had two fouls and two turnovers and played just 6:42 of the final 27:42 of the game.


Foster, the Pack’s de facto fifth starter (in place of Hymes), played 25 minutes on Friday and has now played 20 or more minutes in each of the last nine games and in 14 of the Pack’s 16 Mountain West games this year. He’s played 20 or more minutes in 22 of the Pack’s 30 games while Hymes has played 20 or more just seven times.The 6-6 Foster had three points, a game-high seven rebounds, four assists and three turnovers in his 25 minutes so he was always in the thick of things when he was on the floor. All of his points came on a 3-pointer for a 12-9 lead with under 14 minutes to go in the first half, ending the last time the Bulldogs were fortunate to be in a tie (9-9) with the Pack.That 3-pointer was preceded by a pair of Foster assists a minute earlier. Foster went 1-for-4 from the floor, 1-of-3 on threes because, well, he is almost always wide open on threes and has to at least try once in a while.

The 6-foot freshman was on the floor for 17 minutes and gave the Pack seven points, three rebounds, three assists and a turnover. He fed Davidson for a dunk and a short jumper in the paint in the second half.His 3-pointer put the Pack up 26-11 with 8:29 to go in the first half and his jumper gave the Pack a 64-47 lead with eight minutes left in the game.

TYLAN POPE: Incomplete
Pope played just five minutes but made both his shots for four points and also committed two fouls.

Pack coach Steve Alford got Nick Davidson involved in the offense after a one-game absence and once again squeezed a league victory out of his team with his starting point guard (Kenan Blackshear) out with an ankle injury.On the surface this seemed like an easy win for the Pack, which was never really threatened the final 30-plus minutes of the game.The Pack was efficient, shooting 53 percent from the floor, 44 percent on threes and 85 percent on free throws. Pretty much everything they wanted to do they did with grace, style and ease. So why did Alford coach this game like he was on edge for most of the night? Why didn’t he ever empty his bench and give some of his overworked starters a much-needed rest with the most grueling part of the schedule looking them in the face?Alford, whose team was as healthy as it could be for a March 1 game, basically played just seven players at home in a game in which it led by seven or more points for the final 31-plus minutes.Maybe Alford was feeling some sympathy for Fresno State coach Justin Hutson, who team actually has been ravaged by injuries this year. Starters Donavan Yap, Eduardo Andre, Enoch Boakye and others missed the game and Hutson played just six players all game because, well, he simply had no choice. Two Bulldogs (Leo Colimerio and Isaiah Hill) played the entire game and all five starters played 30-plus minutes.Alford, despite the big lead for 75 percent of the game, still had starters Jarod Lucas, Hunter McIntosh, Nick Davidson and Tre Coleman on the floor for the final six minutes in a game in which the Pack led by 17 with eight minutes to go. All four played at least 33 minutes, leaving the team one twisted ankle away from watching its postseason dreams go up in smoke. All they had to do for a reminder on Friday was look at Blackshear.The Pack won the game easily so Alford’s strategy of keeping the starters in the game down the stretch worked. But it also must be noted that Fresno State outscored the Pack 19-10 over the final 6:45.This was the last easy game (Fresno State is now 11-18, 4-12) the Pack will play this year and it might have been an opportunity lost to get some guys some rest.

Nobody in the Mountain West is playing better than the Pack right now. Two wins this coming week (at Boise State on Tuesday and at home Saturday against UNLV) to close out the regular season will give the Pack 10 wins over its last 11 regular season games. The last Pack team to win 10 of its last 11 regular season games was 2006-07. That team lost its second game in both the Western Athletic Conference and NCAA tournaments.This (24-6) is the Pack’s best record after 30 games since the 2018-19 team was 27-3 on its way to a 29-5 season. That team five years ago, though, ended up losing four of its last nine games and lasted just two games into the Mountain West Tournament and one game in the NCAA Tournament.Alford’s group this year has higher goals than that. Just make sure to tape those ankles.


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