New Mexico whipped Nevada by 34 points on Jan. 28, but two weeks later the Wolf Pack are the much hotter squad.
Nevada aims to get revenge as well as defeat a ranked team for the third straight game when it entertains the Lobos on Tuesday night at Reno, Nev.
The Wolf Pack (19-5, 6-4 MW) notched a 77-63 road victory over then-No. 22 Utah State on Tuesday and followed up with a 70-66 overtime home win over then-No. 24 San Diego State on Friday.
According to the school, it marks the first time Nevada has defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games.
What the recent stretch also has done — the Wolf Pack have won three straight overall — is bolster the program’s NCAA Tournament aspirations.
“Everybody kept saying, ‘What’s wrong?’ when we were 16-5,” Nevada coach Steve Alford said. “I kept saying we’re 16-5, the world’s not going to end. You’re going to have lulls like that.”
New Mexico (19-5, 7-4) certainly is going through a lull by losing its last two home games. The Lobos are 1-2 overall over their past three games.
The more recent home loss was to UNLV, which outclassed the Lobos 80-77 on Saturday night. New Mexico shot a season-worst 35.4 percent from the field and was outscored 48-26 in the paint.
“It is obviously disappointing to drop two in a row at home, to not take advantage of an amazing crowd,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said. “You have to give UNLV a lot of credit — they went out and got it. They are a talented team, well-coached, played hard and their size and length bothered us. They made free throws when they needed to at the end.
“We just kept coming back, tying the game or taking a one-point lead, but we just couldn’t build a lead to get over the hump.”
Donovan Dent and Jaelen House each scored 20 points for the Lobos against UNLV. JT Toppin had just eight points but also had 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Dent leads New Mexico with a 15.9 scoring average with House (15.7) and Jamal Mashburn Jr. (15.2) right behind. Toppin averages 12.7 points and leads the squad in rebounding (8.8) and blocked shots (48).
The Lobos’ recent 89-55 blowout win ended a string of nine straight losses against Nevada. House scored 21 points to lead New Mexico, which shot 58.6 percent from the field and held the Wolf Pack to 33.9 percent. No Nevada players scored in double digits.
But since then, the Wolf Pack have been firing on all cylinders. They clobbered visiting San Jose State 90-60 before the back-to-back upsets of Utah State and San Diego State.
In the win over the Aztecs, Kenan Blackshear led the way with 22 points.
Nevada led for most of regulation before having to secure the victory in the extra session. In those five minutes, it handled the pressure better than the San Diego State program that played in last season’s NCAA Tournament title game.
“I’m just super proud of our guys,” Alford said. “We talked about it after Utah State — try to validate the week. And any time you’ve got to validate it against San Diego State, it’s not easy.”
Jarod Lucas leads Nevada in scoring at 16.9 points per game. Blackshear is second at 15.9 and first in assists per game (4.6). Nick Davidson scores 11.7 points per game and leads the Wolf Pack with 6.9 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media
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