The men’s Mountain West tournament tipped off today on March 9. Nevada received the eighth seed and that gave them a matchup against ninth seeded New Mexico. The Wolf Pack were 1-0 against the New Mexico Lobos in the regular season and they looked to make it 2-0.
Nevada played an overall good game where they were able to score efficiently and control the boards. The Wolf Pack were led by their star junior guard Grant Sherfield who finished with a game high 27 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. He achieved a double double while shooting 9-17 from the field and he went a magnificent 8-9 from the free throw line. Senior guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. ended with 14 points and one rebound. He had an efficient shooting night as he went 5-8 on field goals and 3-6 from three point line. Junior guard Kenan Blackshear had a solid game with nine points and seven rebounds on 4-7 shooting from the field.
Junior center Will Baker ended with 10 points and two rebounds while shooting 4-7 on field goals. Sherfield was the only starter to have a huge game but all the starters pulled their weight and played good team basketball. Nevada did get some help off the bench as junior forward Warren Washington had himself a nice game. Washington was the the fourth pack member with double digit points as he finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, and two assists on 4-9 shooting from the field.
Nevada took an early lead to start the game as Baker hit two free throws and Cambridge Jr. made a layup. The teams went back and forth trading baskets as Washington made two layups and Cambridge Jr connected on a jumper. The score was tied 10-10 around the 13 minute mark.
The game continued this flow with each team going up by no more than a basket or two and then the other team tying the game again. Sherfield started to get going as he finished two layups and then splashed two free throws. Washington made a layup and junior forward K.J. Hymes hit a free throw. The score was 24-21 with Nevada down three with six minutes left in the half.
New Mexico went on a 6-0 run but Nevada quickly responded with free throws and a layup. The Wolf Pack brought the game to within one as they were down 31-30 with two minutes to go in the half. Nevada surrendered more points but they continued to rely on their offense to keep them in the game. Sherfield carried Nevada into halftime with a layup and two free throws. Nevada went into the locker room losing 35-34.
The second half started with the same game script as the first half as both teams continued to score easily but they could not break away. New Mexico opened the half with some baskets but Nevada responded with a Baker jumper and a Blackshear three pointer to tie the game. The Wolf Pack took the lead shortly after with some free throws and a dunk from Washington and Blackshear. Nevada was up 45-43 at the 14 minute mark in the second half.
The pack grew the lead because of two free throws from sophomore guard Tre Coleman and back to back three pointers from Cambridge Jr. Nevada went on a little cold streak after these baskets and New Mexico was able to close the gap. However, in a trend that will continue for the rest of the game Nevada was able to find some offense, which in this case was a Sherfield three, to stay in control of the game. Sherfield and Baker then began to heat up as they both knocked down two free throws and made a layup. Cambridge Jr then hit his third three pointer of the half and Sherfield added another layup as he continued to assert his dominance on the floor. The Wolf Pack were winning 69-61 with under five minutes to go in the second half.
Washington hit two free throws and Sherfield cashed in a jumper but the resilient New Mexico team battled back once again. They got their offense going and came up with a couple of stops to bring the lead to within three. Fortunately, Sherfield once again had another big time bucket as he connected on a huge jumper. The game now turned into a free throw shooting contest and was Nevada’s to lose. Coleman and Sherfield iced the game out with two free throws each and Nevada went on to defeat New Mexico 79-72.
This was a great first game to start the Mountain West tournament. There were a few bright spots in this game for Nevada such as rebounding, team shooting, and of course Sherfield. The Wolf Pack did need to play stronger defense and protect the ball better at times but in the month of March all one can ask for is a win. The first win in a tournament gives a team some legitimacy and Nevada will need to keep this momentum going into the second round. The Wolf Pack will face number one seeded rival Boise State on March 10.
Anthony Miranda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush