The outcome of the contest was only in question just after the opening tip, with the game still scoreless and then halfway through the first half with the scoreboard knotted at 15-15. The deadlocks were the closest Cal Poly would come to holding a lead the entire game as Nevada (6-4) cruised to a 69-56 victory.
With 10 minutes to play until halftime, the Wolf Pack and guard Malik Story went on a tear from three-point range.
Story broke the tie for the Silver and Blue with a catch-and-shoot three from the wing. The Wolf Pack senior did not stop there, knocking down three more triples afterward to catapult Nevada ahead 31-19 with 4:25 remaining in the first half. Not wanting to miss out, Nevada forward Kevin Panzer hit an open three from the corner. Guard Jerry Evans, Jr. followed with a trey of his own in transition before freshman forward Cole Huff banked home the Wolf Pack’s seventh triple of the final 10 minutes before half to take a 40-25 lead at the intermission.
“Everybody came out and played hard,” Story said. “Everybody was rebounding. It was a collective victory tonight. Everybody played well. It was good to get a big lead and we kept it going for the rest of the game.”
In the second half, Nevada expanded its lead to 24 with the scoreboard reading 54-30 and 13:38 on the clock. The Wolf Pack kept Cal Poly at a double-digit distance with its lead extended to 61-36 and 6:47 left to play.
“It’s refreshing to see us play for 40 minutes and dictate the tempo and play our basketball,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “We rebounded the ball well. We’ve been shooting the ball well, which I think is a correlation to our defense. It’s good to see us play well in different areas.
“We’re getting off to better starts. Defensively we’re coming together. We’re guarding a lot better and having more sense of urgency from every guy. We’re being more accountable. Every game we just have to continue to get better and better.”
Part of the recent improved play of the Wolf Pack could be attributed to a roster renovation that Carter made after it dropped a 76-66 decision to Drake. But it is not necessarily the combination of the new starting five that is solely accountable for the recent turnaround that has seen Nevada win two of its last three.
“It’s not so much the starting lineup,” Nevada junior guard Jordan Burris said of the roster shake-ups’ positive impact. “I think it’s collectively as a team we’ve been focusing on playing with more energy to start the game and throughout the game. I think that’s the biggest difference so far.”
“Every game you have to have people you can rely on. You have to know what you’re going to get from that person. Right now I have a really good feel of what guys are going to bring … I think the more time we practice and the more games we get under our belts, I think we become more comfortable. I don’t think you’re going to see any more change. This is what we have and guys have to continue to chip in.”
Story finished the contest with a game-high 19 points. Burris tallied 13 points while Evans, Jr. contributed with a career high 14 rebounds, 11 on the defensive glass. Nevada out-rebounded the Mustangs 47-31 on the night.
Nevada returns to the court Saturday at home against the University of San Francisco. Tipoff is set for 3:05 p.m.