Jalen Harris’ game-winning layup with eight seconds left gave Nevada a 68-67 victory over Wyoming on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center.
Harris capped-off Nevada’s late surge with a drive through Wyoming’s defense, finishing with left-handed finger roll off the glass.
“I always love to get a layup to win the game,” Harris said post-game. “It was a great screen by Zane (Meeks) to catch them slipping and I made a nice layup.”
With no timeouts, Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonado rushed to the right baseline and missed on the ensuing possession, securing the win for Nevada.
“One of the hardest things to do in basketball is 8-12 seconds left and a team is coming full bore at you knowing you can’t foul,” coach Steve Alford said. “To challenge the shot, not foul and grab the rebound we made those winning plays tonight.”
Nevada snapped a two-game losing streak, improving to 11-7 and 4-2 in the Mountain West Conference. The back-and-forth battle with the Cowboys had of mistakes and offensive miscues.
Nevada trailed 60-49 with four minutes left.
The Wolf Pack shot just 42 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range to go along with 12 turnovers. But their suffocating perimeter defense and timely offense propelled the Pack to victory.
Nevada held Wyoming to 26 points in the first half. Alford made sure to emphasize some second half adjustments.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we held them to 26 points at halftime and they aren’t gonna beat you that way,” Alford said. “I circled for them with seven minutes left to go in the game that they 52 points, so those are some lessons of importance. … Our offense didn’t really flow, but we guarded really well.”
Three Nevada players scored in double figures. Harris poured in a game-high 20 points with three steals and six rebounds. Jazz Johnson scored 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
Senior guard Nisré Zouzoua chipped in with 12 impactful points off the bench. His frontcourt steal from Kenny Foster and slam put Nevada ahead with 25 seconds left in the contest.
“I missed a layup the play before that and I took responsibility for that as a senior, those are plays I have to make,” Zouzoua said. “Instead of just sulking my head, coach challenged me to make another play and that’s how the steal came about.”
Wyoming shot 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. Maldanado scored a team-high 17 points. Hunter Thompson added 16 points and four rebounds.
The starting five of Drew, Harris, Johnson, Robby Robinson and Johncarlos Reyes took the floor for Nevada.
Nevada shook off a slow start to build a 15-9 lead halfway through the first half. Nisré Zouzoua, Johnson and Harris connected on three-straight makes from beyond the arc.
Wyoming tied the contest 21-21 with under five minutes remaining. The Wolf Pack ended the half on a 11-5 run to bring the Lawlor crowd back to their feet. Nevada led 32-26 at the half.
The Wolf Pack opened the second half making just four of its first 13 shots. Kenny Foster’s dunk put Wyoming ahead 44-42 with 12 minutes left.
Both teams traded baskets in back-and-forth fashion. Hunter Maldanado’s free throws put Wyoming up 58-55 with under five minutes left to play.
Harris’ heroic layup gave Nevada the lead and victory.
Nevada faces No. 7 San Diego State on Saturday, Dec. 18 at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs are 17-0 overall and 6-0 in conference this season.
“We are going to lock in, watch film and prepare,” Harris said. “We will be ready to play.”
— Isaiah Burrows