LAS VEGAS – The Nevada basketball team showed Utah State why it was the regular season conference champion Thursday afternoon. Utah State never led in the 83-69 season-ending defeat in the Mountain West tournament quarterfinals.
Wolf Pack guard Jordan Caroline led Nevada with 22 points. Forward Cameron Oliver added another 19 points and had a game-high 11 rebounds. Aggie head coach Tim Duryea called Nevada’s performance “tremendous.”
“I didn’t think we played poorly, but they were very, very good,” he said. “We had some kinks to work out. I thought we were past that yesterday.”
Senior wing Jalen Moore scored a career-high 27 in the defeat. He said he tried to be aggressive in his final game.
“I knew what I needed to do to lead the team and be the senior leader,” he said. “I didn’t want the season to end.”
Freshman guard Koby McEwen played all 40 minutes and added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Quinn Taylor contributed eight points and eight rebounds.
Between turnovers, missed free throws and an air ball to start the game, USU was unable to score through the first three minutes and fell behind 9-0.
“They came out of the game making tough shots,” McEwen said. “There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Moore finally got USU on the board with a jumper, but Nevada scored the next five, forcing the Aggies to call a timeout.
“We needed (Nevada) to have a little bit of a slow start and have some doubt,” Duryea said. “They didn’t do that.”
Freshman Sam Merrill hit a trey out of the early timeout to start a 13-2 run that trimmed the deficit to a single point, but it didn’t get any closer. The Wolf Pack slowly stretched its lead back to eight over the next few minutes. USU retaliated with back-to-back dunks from Moore and McEwen, but then fell into a 19-point hole after 14-0 Nevada run near the end of the half put the Aggies down 45-26.
“I was thrilled after we survived the first run, obviously,” Duryea said. “To weather that storm and get back into the game, I thought from that point on it would be anybody’s game the rest of the way.”
A Moore bucket to finish the first half and five-straight Aggie points to start the second cut the Nevada lead to 12. It got as low as 10, but hot shooting got the Wolf Pack going again.
“We couldn’t really get back into the game,” Moore said. “We kind of just stayed within 14 points through 11 points and couldn’t cut it back to single digits.”
Nevada led by as many as 21 before the end of the game and will advance to the semifinal match Friday.
Moore finished his career as the No. 9 all-time scorer at USU with 1,626 points. His four rebounds gave him 654 total, moving him past his father into a tie for the No. 15 spot all-time.
“It’s been a blessing to play with all the players I’ve played with,” he said. “It’s just been a fun run, getting better every year and playing with different players.”
USU finished the year with a 15-17 overall recording, making this year the first losing record since the 1992-93 season.