Nevada's Tyron Criswell scored 19 points and hit the go-ahead free throw with 2:25 remaining in the game, helping the Wolf Pack hold off Utah State, 89-84, in front of 9,659 fans Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The Aggies (11-9, 3-6 Mountain West) trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half but surged back to tie the game at 78-all with 2:53 to go following a basket by junior guard Shane Rector.
However, Criswell’s free throw sparked a 6-0 run by the Wolf Pack (13-8, 5-4), who won for the third time in their last four games. During that game-changing stretch, Utah State missed four shots from the field, including a 3-pointer by senior guard Chris Smith that would have given the Aggies their first lead since midway through the first half.
Smith led the Aggies with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He also had eight rebounds and four assists. Junior wing Jalen Moore added 17 points for Utah State, while Rector finished in double figures for the fifth-straight game with 16 and senior guard Darius Perkins added 14.
Nevada’s D.J. Fenner led all scorers in the game with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while Marqueze Coleman had 20 points and seven assists. The Wolf Pack’s Cameron Oliver recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Eric Cooper Jr. chipped in 13 points off the bench.
Utah State shot the ball extremely well as it was 32-of-60 from the field (53.3 percent), including 11-of-21 from 3-point range (52.4 percent). However, the Aggies struggled at the free-throw line, only knocking down 50 percent of their shots (9-for-18).
Conversely, Nevada made 23 of its 28 free throws (82.1 percent) and shot 49.1 percent from the field (28-of-57), including 45.5 percent from beyond the arc (10-of-22). The Wolf Pack’s final 11 points came from the charity stripe.
Nevada dominated the points off the bench and outscored Utah State’s bench, 32-12. However, the Aggies outrebounded the Wolf Pack, 35-33.
In a game that featured first-year college head coaches (Eric Musselman at Nevada and Tim Duryea at Utah State), the Aggies scored the first four points of the night on a basket by Moore and layup from Rector.
Utah State broke a 16-all tie with a 6-0 run as sophomore guard Julion Pearre, Moore and redshirt junior forward Lew Evans each scored a basket. Pearre tied his career high with two steals.
However, Nevada countered with a 16-0 spurt that made it 32-22 with 7:21 remaining in the half. The Wolf Pack knocked down all four of their 3-point attempts during that stretch, while the Aggies missed all five of their shots from the field and both attempts from the stripe, to go along with one turnover.
Nevada shot 8-of-16 from 3-point range in the first half alone, which helped the Wolf Pack build a 49-35 lead at the break. The shooting was uncharacteristic of Nevada, which entered the game last in the Mountain West, averaging just 27.2 percent (34-of-125) from behind the 3-point line in league games.
Utah State now begins a two-game road swing, opening the stretch at Boise State on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on KVNU with Al Lewis on the call or watch the game on ESPN3. The Aggies follow up the game at Boise State with a road contest at Wyoming on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 4 p.m.
Kyle Cottam is the Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at Utah State University.