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No. 6 Nevada crushes Lobo men in rematch

RENO, Nev. — If Saturday wasn’t personal, it was hard to tell.

The No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack didn’t waste much time on Saturday making clear that 27-point blowout loss to New Mexico on Jan. 5 in Albuquerque, the only blemish on the Wolf Pack’s season, was not only a fluke in its mind, but was not going to be even remotely repeated.

Nevada physically abused the Lobos on Saturday in nearly every facet of the game, leading wire to wire in a 91-62 win in front of a raucous sellout Lawlor Events Center crowd announced at 11,197.

“We were embarrassed last game (vs. New Mexico),” said Nevada head coach Eric Musselman, whose Wolf Pack lost 85-58 in Dreamstyle Arena on Jan. 5. “We really were. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re not happy with your play.”

UNM fell to 10-13 overall and 4-7 in Mountain West play and is tied for the 8th/9th place spot in the league standings.

The Lobos do have the easiest schedule, based on records, the rest of the way in the league. Not as though that mattered much on Saturday.

The Wolf Pack (23-1, 10-1), losers by 27 points in Albuquerque a month earlier when a Lobos zone defense held them to 33.3 percent shooting and the Pack’s defense scored just five points off nine turnovers, flipped that script in this rematch.

Saturday, the Lobos’ 29-point loss included being held to 33.3 percent shooting. The Pack scored 22 points off 20 UNM turnovers.

It was a 56-point swing in terms of point differential from what was one of the season’s biggest upsets on Jan. 5 to Saturday’s one-sided affair for the 20½-point favorite Wolf Pack.

Nevada held the Lobos to just four points on UNM’s first 25 possessions while opening up a 25-4 lead midway through the first half. During that stretch, the Lobos committed nine turnovers and were 2-of-18 from the field.

“Our turnovers I think stand out the most,” Lobos coach Paul Weir said of the difference between Saturday and one month ago at home. “In game 1, we obviously did an exceptional job of taking care of the basketball with nine turnovers. Tonight we had 14 at half. It just really started their transition. It starts their activity. It gets them going.”

Each of Nevada’s five 23-year-old, fifth-year senior starters scored in double figures as did junior backup Jazz Johnson, who also passed 1,000 career points scored in the game. He became the seventh — seventh — player on the Wolf Pack roster to have scored more than 1,000 points in his collegiate career. All seven began their careers at other schools.

The physical disparity in the game had three key Lobos in early foul trouble. Anthony Mathis, Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault each had three fouls by halftime.

And while it was clear there was plenty of contact in the game, and Weir couldn’t deny that was a factor, he credited the Wolf Pack for making that happen.

“I think it set the tone of the game,” Weir said. “You’ve got to give Nevada credit. They were going to the rim and making plays, forcing those calls, and we were not. We were shying away from a lot of stuff. We didn’t necessarily put the pressure on the officials we should have.”

UNM did get 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from Makuach Maluach, and Bragg had 13 points and 8 rebounds in just 19 minutes, limited by foul trouble.

But the Lobos had seven players commit multiple turnovers and were never able to make a game of it.

“One-pass shots — a lot of things that really bother me came back,” Weir said.

“‘Selfish’ is the wrong word, but individualized offensive play kind of came back, and we’re not very good when we do that.”

Defensively, the zone that worked so well for the Lobos a month ago failed Saturday. But so did the man-to-man. And the press.

And just about everything else the team tried.

“Offensively, everyone panicked up about our zone (offense) the last time we played them,” Musselman said. “We added a completely new offensive set that we’ve never run against zone before tonight. I don’t care if our opponents know what it’s called. It’s called touchdown. We picked their defense apart in our zone offense tonight.”


UP NEXT: Wednesday, San Jose State at UNM, 7 p.m., AT&T Sports Net, 770 AM/94.5 FM