Led by Zane Meeks’ spark off the bench, Nevada opened the 2020 year with a 67-61 victory over Colorado State on Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Meeks scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range and hauled in six rebounds. The freshman forward tallied eight-straight points in the first half to give the Pack a much-needed offensive boost.
Nevada used Meeks’ offensive rhythm and held off Colorado State’s late second half sure with efficient shooting and suffocating perimeter defense. The Wolf Pack improved to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in conference.
Meeks scored all 14 points in the first 20 minutes followed by a quiet second half. Head coach Steve Alford sees room for improvement in the young forward’s game.
“I thought Zane was terrific in the first half,” Alford said. “There were some breakdowns in his game in the second half. But that is a great learning situation for him.”
Colorado State keyed in on Meeks in the second half, but Nevada found more scoring options down the stretch.
“They were more keyed in on me,” Meeks said. “I just didn’t do a great job of moving. I kind of got stagnant, but my teammates did a great job of finding me for open threes. I just didn’t do a great job of moving.”
The Wolf Pack shot 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. Jalen Harris scored a game-high 20 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Lindsey Drew had eight points and six assists. Jazz Johnson scored nine points on 4-of-16 shooting. Nisré Zouzoua added 10 points off the bench.
Nevada outscored Colorado State 26-9 in bench points with several contributions in key situations. Harris noticed the Wolf Pack’s depth as a key component to their success as a unit.
“We have a lot of guys who could start,” Harris said. “It doesn’t surprise me to see what Zane or Nisré do what they do every game. I see it every practice. … We hold them to the same standards of the starters.”
Colorado State was held to 38 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc. Nevada forced 16 turnovers via eight blocks and five steals.
Rams senior center Nico Carvacho — who ranked third in the Mountain West Conference with 10.4 rebounds per game — was held to 13 points and nine rebounds. The trio of Johncarlos Reyes, K.J. Hymes and Meeks limited Carvacho’s effectiveness on the boards.
“We were just being sound defensively, and I thought we did a good job of that,” Alford said. “We challenged his shots well, challenged him on the boards. So overall, I thought our effort was really good.”
The starting five of Drew, Johnson, Harris, Robby Robinson and Reyes took the floor for the Pack.
Nevada jumped out to a 10-4 advantage sparked by Meeks’ back-to-back 3-pointers. Drew’s elbow jumper pushed the Wolf Pack’s lead to 30-17 with under four minutes left to play in the first half.
The Wolf Pack finished the first half on a high note and led 39-25 at the buzzer.
Johnson’s’ 3-pointer increased Nevada’s lead to 52-33 early in the second half. The Wolf Pack kept their double-digit lead intact with Harris’ layup in transition. Nevada led 61-46 with under five minutes left to play.
Colorado State forced a late surge, but the Pack held on to secure the victory.
Up Next: Nevada returns to Lawlor Events Center on Saturday, Jan. 4 in a conference matchup against the Boise State Broncos. Winners of four-straight games, Boise State is 10-5 overall.
— Isaiah Burrows