Nevada got off to a 16-5 lead four and a half minutes into the contest and never looked back. A jumper by Pack forward Olek Czyz gave the Pack its early 11-point edge.
The WAC rivals traded buckets to an 18-7 score and then New Mexico State ripped off eight straight points to get within three, 18-15, following a Daniel Mullings jumper. The hosts were never that close again.
Nevada responded with a 14-4 burst capped by a Deonte Burton 3-pointer that made the score 32-19 in the Wolf Pack’s favor at the 5:35 mark of the first half. Nevada kept the momentum into halftime and held a 44-30 advantage at the break.
The Wolf Pack continued to pour it on after the intermission. A Devonte Elliott bucket with just over seven minutes remaining in the contest saw Nevada forge ahead 62-44. That 18-point gap was the widest margin of the night.
That’s when New Mexico State responded with its only real threat of the night. The Aggies posted 13 consecutive points in a five-minute span to trim Nevada’s lead to five, 62-57. A pair of free throws by Tshilidzi Nephawe ended the run that saw NMSU claw its way back into contention, leaving 2:06 to go.
Nevada nixed any hopes of an Aggies’ comeback as it got a dunk from Czyz and two Dario Hunt free throws on its corresponding two possessions to seal the victory.
The Reno school got a balanced effort on offense. Four Pack players hit for double digits in the scoring column, led by the 17 points of Burton. Hunt chipped in 15 points while Malik Story and Czyz each added 14.
The Wolf Pack shot a solid 56.5 percent from the floor (26-46) compared to New Mexico State’s 17-of-52 showing (32.7 percent). The Aggies were able to hang around in large part due to a huge edge at the charity stripe. The hosts knocked down 21-of-31 free throws while Nevada only got 16 attempts, making nine.
Nevada helped its cause by doing a solid defensive job on the WAC’s leading scorer, New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines. The Aggies’ forward averages more than 18 points per game, but was limited to 15 Thursday on 2-of-12 shooting. He still finished with 15 points on the strength of an 11-of-13 foul shooting night.
NMSU point guard Hernst Laroche paced the Aggies’ offense with a game-high 21 points.
The Wolf Pack improved to 17-3 overall and stayed perfect in WAC action at 6-0. New Mexico State fell to 14-7 and 4-2. Nevada returns to the hardwood Saturday when it plays at Louisiana Tech. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. PST.