Nevada’s chance at history fell short in a 83-76 loss to No. 5 ranked San Diego State on Saturday, snapping a Lawlor Events Center 20-game winning streak. It would have marked the basketball program’s first-ever regular season home win against a Top-5 opponent.
The Wolf Pack fought to the buzzer, but the Aztecs’ dominance down the stretch on both ends was too much. Nevada held a nine-point lead at the half and trailed 79-76 with under two minutes left. San Diego State rallied on the back of junior guard Malachi Flynn.
“I thought our guys gave a great effort. We just came up a little bit short,” head coach Steve Alford said postgame. “I’m very pleased with how we finished. We’ve done a lot of good things and it’s gonna be a fight.”
Nevada snapped its six-game win streak and finished the regular season 19-11 overall and 12-6 in the Mountain West Conference. It clinched the third seed and first round bye in the Mountain West Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
The Wolf Pack’s heart and grit were on full display from the opening tip. Saturday’s match was the final home game for seniors Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson, Nisré Zouzoua and Johncarlos Reyes. They were each honored during a post-game ceremony in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,855 fans in attendance.
Drew made sure to soak in his final moments with his fans and family at Lawlor Events Center.
“Time was going by pretty slow because I just kept thinking back on everything,” he said. “I was really trying to hold in some tears. I’m pretty sure my eyes were watering the whole time, but it was a special moment. I can’t thank the community and school enough for what they’ve done for me.”
Johnson also reflected on his decorated collegiate career.
“I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at today,” he said. “This day is the pinnacle of it all. You work so hard your entire life and then you end your last year right there with your family. I wish it could’ve ended in a win, but it was everything for me to have my family here in Reno with me. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
In a battle for Mountain West Player of the Year, Jalen Harris and Flynn put on an offensive show for their respective teams. Harris poured in a team-high 24 points and five assists for Nevada. Flynn led SDSU with a career-high 36 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“Flynn is an awfully good player,” Alford said. “I’ve seen enough of him at Washington State, let alone San Diego State. They’re a really good basketball team and they showed it.”
Nevada shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Johnson had 13 points and three assists. Drew finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Reyes added six points and one rebound.
The Aztecs shot 53 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc. KJ Feagin had 14 points and two rebounds. Matt Mitchell added eight points on 3-of-7 shooting.
San Diego State finished the year 28-1 overall and 17-1 in the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs’ 17-1 conference record is the highest winning percentage for a Mountain West Conference team, eclipsing Utah’s 13-1 mark in 2004-05.
Drew, Johnson, Reyes, Harris and Robby Robinson made up the starting five for the Pack.
San Diego State held a slim 10-9 advantage to open the game. Nevada responded with seven unanswered points to take the lead. Reyes’ layup pushed the Pack’s lead to 34-29 with unders six minutes left.
Nevada kept its foot on the gas pedal, punishing the Aztecs in the paint and out on the perimeter through the first half buzzer. Harris’ mid-range jumper beat the buzzer and put the Wolf Pack ahead 45-36 at the half.
Harris’ 3-pointer kept Nevada’s lead at 57-51 with 14:19 left in the second half. A pair of free throws from Adam Seiko put San Diego State back up one point. The Aztecs built a 73-66 advantage with under six minutes remaining.
The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the game, but Flynn clinched the win for the Aztecs two-straight baskets in the final minute.
Up Next: Nevada awaits its opponent in the Mountain West Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament.
— Isaiah Burrows