Lindsey Drew’s valiant effort in his return was not enough in Nevada’s 79-74 opening game loss to Utah before a crowd of 8,324 on Tuesday in Reno.
In his first game since Feb. 14, 2018, the fifth-year senior scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting and 5-of-9 from 3-point territory with eight assists and six rebounds. He missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles and double-hip surgery.
Drew returned to Lawlor Events Center with a quick first-step to get by defenders. His hot shooting from the perimeter helped spread the floor for the rest of the Wolf Pack offense.
Head coach Steve Alford was impressed by Drew’s showing on the floor.
“Lindsey did a lot of things,” he said. “We’re asking him to guard a really good player. … He gets eight assists with no turnovers in a game where he scores 30 and he’s our leading rebounder. … That’s a pretty good night when you missed the last 20 months and I’m very happy for him.”
The loss snapped Nevada’s 18-game home winning streak in Alford’s debut. It tied a school record and was the fifth-longest active streak in the NCAA.
Junior guard Jalen Harris, who scored 26 points Wolf Pack’s exhibition game with Colorado Christain on Oct. 30, missed the entire second half with a right foot injury, according to Alford. He was seen on the bench wearing a boot.
“He’ll get x-rays tomorrow, and that’s a key one,” he said. “So we’re hoping for the best there. … I just saw him in a boot the whole game and limping in the boot. That’s usually not a good sign.”
Nevada kept the contest close, but Utah’s youth and physicality was too much. The Utes had dominated the glass with 50 rebounds and eight second-chance points. Utah was in the double bonus in both halves and made 22 free throws on 35 attempts.
Utah won the battles inside and it limited the Pack on both sides of the ball.
“We got in a lot of early foul trouble,” Alford said. “It’s hard to win games when you’re getting beat at the line and the backboard. I thought those were the two big keys. If there’s a glaring thing I was disappointed in, it was on the backboard. I thought they were tougher on the glass and it could be a good lesson for us.”
The Wolf Pack shot just 40 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point territory. Jazz Johnson scored 16 points on 3-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Nisré Zouzoua added nine points and four rebounds off the bench.
Alford saw signs of promise in Nevada’s offense considering the team’s youth and early foul trouble.
“There was a lot of things I liked that we did offensively especially with all the stuff that threw us out of rhythm,” he said. “K.J. (Hymes) gets five fouls in six minutes. Zane (Meeks) gets three fouls in three minutes, and Jalen goes down. … All of this was thrown at us in a five-minute frame and I thought the guys handled it well.”
Utah shot 44 percent from the floor and 21 percent from beyond the arc. Timmy Allen scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting and hauled in 11 rebounds. Both Gach scored 22 points with two assists.
The Utes’ big guards posed problems for Nevada’s backcourt.
“When you’re trying to guard Timmy Allen and Gach, those are two big guards,” Alford said. “They both had big nights.”
Sophomore forward Robby Robinson got the starting nod over freshman K.J. Hymes, who started the previous two exhibition games. The 6-foot-8 swingman joined Drew, Jazz Johnson, Johncarlos Reyes and Jalen Harris in the starting lineup.
Drew opened the game with three-straight 3-pointers. But Utah’s physical presence inside helped the Utes take a 13-12 lead. Utah pushed the lead to 27-19 off a 3-pointer from Riley Battin. The Wolf Pack tied it up with an 11-3 run capped-off by Jazz Johnson’s 3-pointer in the corner.
Utah led 37-32 at the half.
The Utes found themselves back in the bonus with 12:22 in the second half to build a 55-47 advantage. Nevada cut tied it up 56-56 with Drew’s fifth 3-pointer of the game and Johnson’s layup in transition.
Utah built a five-point lead with five minutes left off Timmy Allen’s and-1 layup. Zane Meeks’ four-point play cut the Pack’s deficit to 71-68. Allen answered with another contested layup on the ensuing possession. The two teams traded baskets, but Utah closed the game out on the free throw line.
Despite the loss, Johnson is confident the Wolf Pack can rebound.
“It’s a good barometer for us to learn from,” he said. “You always need that wake-up call. … We’ll get back to work and be ready for LMU.”
Nevada faces Loyola Marymount on Saturday, Nov. 9 at Lawlor Events Center.
Notes: Nevada has two career 1,000-point scorers in Jazz Johnson and Nisré Zouzoua. … The Wolf Pack have won 20 or more games in 12 of the last 16 seasons. … Nevada was ranked in the Top 25 all last season, reaching as high as No. 5.
- Nevada (0-1) hosts Loyola Marymount (1-0) for the second of four home games in a row to start the season on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. • The Wolf Pack will look to start a new homecourt win streak after its 18-game school record tying streak was snapped after the 79-74 loss to Utah on Tuesday … First-year head coach Steve Alford is in his 29th season as a college head coach and is 13 wins from 600 in his career • Alford holds a 2-0 advantage versus LMU and Nevada is 9-3 in the last 12 games in the series • In the last 45 games Nevada is 42-3 at Lawlor Events Center • After the LMU game Nevada hosts UT Arlington on Tuesday and USC on Saturday, Nov. 16.
- Lindsey Drew made his 100th game at Nevada a record setter scoring a career-high 30 points against Utah in the season opener • Drew had a new career at halftime netting 20 points in the first 20 minutes of the game breaking his old mark of 17 • Jazz Johnson also scored in double figures with 16 on the night • Six of the nine players that saw action for the Pack were playing for the first time in a college game • Eight of the nine scored • Jalen Harris played just 8 minutes and did not return after suffering an injury • Harris’ status for Saturday is unknown at this time.
— Isaiah Burrows