Five days after winning its first road game at Boise State, Nevada picked up an impressive Western Athletic Conference home win, downing perennial league contender New Mexico State, 90-71, in front of 4,839 fans at Lawlor Events Center Thursday night.
Nevada used a red-hot shooting night and a dominant rebounding performance to improve to 6-13 overall and even its WAC mark at 3-3. The Wolf Pack shot a sizzling 56.5 percent (35-62) from the floor and out-rebounded the visitors from NMSU, 42-29.
"It builds confidence with a win like this," Nevada coach David Carter said. "We handled the press and we limited the turnovers. I think this is a sign the team is growing up."
Nevada led by seven at the half but pulled away after the break. The Wolf Pack had extended its lead to 10, 67-57, with just over nine minutes remaining.
From there, the game got ugly for New Mexico State (10-10, 4-2 WAC). Nevada got into a fast-break drill and outscored the Aggies 12-3 in a two-and-a-half minute span.
The outburst saw the Wolf Pack stretch its lead to a game-high of 19 points, 79-60.
New Mexico State never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"We were patient on offense and then translated that to defense," Nevada point guard Deonte Burton said. "They looked pretty winded toward the end of the game so we were able to get some points in transition and some easy points from that. We definitely have to steal wins at home and protect the home floor. Those are great wins and we just have to keep up the intensity."
Burton finished with a team-high 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He also gave away six assists.
Dario Hunt added 20 points and 12 rebounds to the Pack’s winning cause. Additionally, Olek Czyz chipped in 15 points while Malik Story and Derrell Connor finished with 10 apiece.
"We executed well for a full 40 minutes," Czyz said. "They threw a lot of presses and zones at us and I thought we handled them well. As a whole, we did a really good job."
Troy Gillenwater paced New Mexico State with 22 points. Hernst Laroche was the only other Aggies player to find double digits in the scoring column, posting 11 points.
New Mexico State led 22-20 after a runner by Gillenwater at the 8:43 mark of the first half. However, Gillenwater was whistled for a technical foul on the play and it sparked an 8-0 Nevada run.
Burton drained both technical foul shots to start the run and a Czyz layup capped it, forging the Wolf Pack ahead 28-22 with 7:48 left before halftime.
Nevada’s lead was one, 37-36, after the Aggies got two free throws from Tshilidzi Nephawe with 3:17 remaining in the first half. Unfortunately for the visitors, Nevada answered with the final six points of the first half and took the 43-36 edge into the locker room at the intermission.
The Wolf Pack returns to action Saturday night when it hosts Louisiana Tech at 7:35 p.m.