Nevada played to the tune of senior guard Jazz Johnson in a 83-66 victory over Boise State — it’s eight straight over the Broncos — on Saturday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Johnson poured in a career-high 34 points on 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. He totaled 21 points in the first half and erupted the rowdy Lawlor crowd with each made basket from beyond the arc.
“I was just having fun out there, honestly,” Johnson said post-game. “When the crowd gets going, and the guys on the bench are bringing energy, everyone is just having fun at that point.”
Johnson couldn’t remember a better night in a college uniform, but it sparked a memorable hoops experience.
“In high school I scored 44 points against Ben Simmons’ team (Montverde Academy),” he said. “That night was still in my mind pretty good, but we got blasted. This game tops it because we got a win on top of it.”
The Mountain West Conference rivals traded blows throughout the contest. But the Wolf Pack pulled away in the second half with efficient perimeter shooting and stifling defense in the second half.
Winners of back-to-back games, Nevada improved to 10-5 overall and 3-0 in conference.
“I thought we responded really well tonight,” head coach Steve Alford said post-game. “That was 40 minutes of energy and enthusiasm and that was great to see. We beat a team that was really high-level with five seniors and two juniors and lots of experience.”
The Wolf Pack shot 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range on 21 assists. Jalen Harris scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Lindsey Drew added 14 points and nine assists. Robby Robinson hauled in six rebounds.
Drew made sure to run the offense and feed Johnson the ball as much as possible.
“I know when a guy gets the hot hand, there’s no point in stop giving him the ball,” Drew said. “Early on in the game, I realized Jazz was going to have one of those games and I just wanted to keep giving him the ball.”
Boise State shot 36 percent from the field and 19 percent from 3-point range. Derrick Alston scored a team-high 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Justinian Jessup added 12 points. The Broncos were held to just 31 percent shooting in the second half.
“The second half, we were really good offensively and defensively,” Alford said. “Through 15 games, we have to be top in the country in 3-point percentage defense. … Boise finished 2-for-22 from there, which says a lot of our guys defended.”
The starting lineup of Drew, Johnson, Harris, Robinson and Johncarlos Reyes took the floor for Nevada.
Boise State jumped out to an early 12-7 lead and were ahead by as much as eight. But Johnson’s fifth 3-pointer of the first half put Nevada up 30-27. The Wolf Pack scored four-straight baskets during the waning minutes, including two thunderous dunks by Harris in transition.
Nevada led 39-35 at the half.
The Wolf Pack extended their lead to 58-47 with quick baskets and crisp ball movement to start the second half. Johnson’s 3-pointer brought Nevada’s lead to 74-54 with under six minutes left to play.
Nevada’s efficient shooting and stingy defense held on the rest of the way.
Up Next: Nevada faces San Jose State of the Mountain West Conference on the road Jan. 8 at Provident Credit Union Center.