Nevada’s reign from 3-point range helped coach Steve Alford reach a historic milestone in a 96-74 blowout win over New Mexico on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.
Alford, 55, earned his 600th career victory over his former team. He is the 16th NCAA Division-I basketball head coach with 600 wins or more.
His 155 wins with New Mexico are the most victories with any team during his 29-year coaching career. But Wolf Pack stole the show from the opening tip.
Alford coached New Mexico from 2007-13 and led the Lobos to six Mountain West Conference titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
“I don’t know if that was fun. Knowing how much New Mexico means to me and the family,” Alford said. “It’s always hard. … 600 wins in, and I’ve only played my former schools twice. … It’s a bit odd and I’m glad it’s that way.”
Nevada tied a school record with 17 three-point baskets, which were the most at Lawlor Events Center. The Wolf Pack shot 49 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range on 35 attempts.
Saturday’s win put Nevada at 6-3 in the Mountain West Conference and 13-8 overall. The Pack — who were tied with Colorado State and New Mexico at 5-3 in conference — are in sole possession of third place in the MW.
“I’m just really proud of my guys,” Alford said. “We’ve been working hard for a two-week stretch where we weren’t gaining what we needed to gain. … Tonight, we met those challenges. Overall, a tremendous effort with moving the ball and 17 three-pointers, it was a pretty good night for us.”
New Mexico was without four starters against the Pack. Carlton Bragg was dismissed from the team on for DWI possession charges. JJ Caldwell was suspended indefinitely by the university on Dec. 22. Vance Jackson and JaQuan Kyle missed New Mexico’s road trip with knee injuries.
The Lobos shot 42 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3-point range. Junior guard Zane Martin scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
Senior Corey Manigault, a 6-9 senior from Suitland, Maryland, had 13 points and five rebounds. His uncle was playground legend Earl “The Goat” Manigault, who Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said was the greatest player he’d ever played with or against.
Six Nevada players scored in double figures and the team totaled 23 assists.
Nisré Zouzoua tallied a season-high 20 points off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Jalen Harris scored 19 points with seven assists.
Zouzoua’s movement off the ball played right into Nevada’s unselfish play.
“It was a lot of ball movement and we like playing with each other,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is getting the shots. Tonight, it was me. My teammates were making the extra pass and that’s what we try to do as an offense.”
Zane Meeks scored 13 points off the bench. Jazz Johnson added 12 points with four 3-pointers. Johncarlos Reyes had his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Reyes’ pregame dunk tore down the shot clock on Nevada’s side of the floor for the first half. The clock was moved to the media desk on the baseline.
Nevada didn’t need a clear view of the shot clock to get into an offensive rhythm. The Wolf Pack swung the ball with crisp passes around the perimeter and capped-off massive runs with thunderous slams in transition.
Alford made sure to battle the short-handed Lobos on the boards. Nevada hauled in a season-high 50 rebounds — 15 offensive — to New Mexico’s 26 on the night.
“When you out-rebound a team by 24 that helps your offense in getting some open looks,” he said. “That was something we wanted to focus on and we did a great job.”
Lindsey Drew, Johnson, Harris, Robby Robinson and Reyes made up the starting five for the Pack.
Robinson’s and-1 layup in transition put Nevada ahead 9-7 five minutes into the opening half. The Wolf Pack extended their lead to double digits via Zane Meeks’ baseline 3-pointer.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Zouzoua put the Pack up 29-13. Nevada made six of its first nine shots from beyond the arc and coasted on a 25-6 run.
Martin and the Lobos clawed back to trim their deficit to 39-27, but Nevada padded its lead over the final three minutes on a 10-2 run.
The Wolf Pack led 49-29 at the half.
Reyes’ layup off the glass kept Nevada’s lead at 64-41 early in the second half. The Wolf Pack continued their offensive showcase with a flurry of 3-pointers that erupted the Lawlor crowd.
Nevada lead stayed in the double digits for the remainder of the second half as the Pack cruised to victory.
Up Next: Nevada faces Colorado State on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Moby Arena in Fort Collins. The Rams are 14-7 overall and 5-3 in conference this season.
Fight Against Cancer: 8,979 fans donned pink-themed shirts to help the Wolf Pack sport the Go! Fight! Cure! Cancer cause to help raise money for Renown Institute for Cancer and those affected by the disease in the community.
— Isaiah Burrows