That, coupled with a 78-73 loss to Louisiana Tech at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas in the WAC tourney semifinals left Nevada tasting sour grapes as it fell to 26-6 overall.
Nevada, which trailed throughout much of Friday’s tourney tilt, fought back to take the lead in the final 10 minutes of the game. The Wolf Pack took a 71-69 lead after Malik Story dropped a 3-point bomb at the 2:50 mark of the second half.
That’s as good as it got for Nevada. Louisiana Tech finished the game on a 9-2 run and wound up earning a berth in the tournament’s title game tonight against New Mexico State. The Bulldogs are just the second No. 6 seed in the WAC’s history to reach the conference tournament title game.
Nevada, which found itself down by three at halftime, was still down by five, 53-48, with 13:35 remaining in the game. The five-point Bulldogs lead came after Raheem Appleby canned two free throws following a technical foul call against Nevada coach David Carter, who was incensed after he believed Pack point guard Deonte Burton had been fouled on the previous possession.
The technical foul seemed to get Nevada going. The Wolf Pack scored seven straight points in a span of just over a minute and forged ahead 55-53 with 11:02 still left.
Louisiana Tech did not lose its composure. The Bulldogs responded by scoring eight of the next 10 points and grabbed a 61-57 lead.
The league rivals traded buckets to Nevada’s 71-69 lead, setting the stage for LTU’s late-game heroics.
Nevada went into halftime down by three, 42-39. The deficit was largely due to Louisiana Tech’s red-hot shooting in the first half. The Bulldogs knocked down their first six shots from the beyond the arc and were 8-of-10 from three-point land in the initial 20 minutes.
With seven and a half minutes to go before halftime, Louisiana Tech had just knocked down back-to-back treys. At that point, the Bulldogs had a 34-19 lead. Louisiana Tech used an 18-3 burst to grab that 15-point edge after the contest had been knotted at 16-16 at the 13:25 mark of the first half.
Nevada chipped away at the Louisiana Tech lead through the last seven minutes before halftime. A 12-3 Wolf Pack surge was capped by a Kevin Panzer corner 3-pointer after a drive and kickout. The spurt got Nevada within six, 37-31, with 3:42 showing on the first-half clock.
Louisiana Tech scored five of the next seven points to push its lead up to nine, 42-33, but Nevada responded by closing out the first-half scoring with back-to-back 3-pointers, from Panzer and Burton, accounting for the 42-39 halftime score.
Trevor Gaskin scored 21 points to lead Louisiana Tech, which held Burton, the WAC’s Player of the Year, to just five points. Story paced Nevada offensively, finishing with 21 points.