After back-to-back home league home losses last month, Nevada has captured six wins in its last seven outings and locked up the second seed in the WAC Tournament, which will be held in Reno this week. The latest of those came Saturday night in Nevada's regular season finale when it knocked off Boise State, 69-60, handing the Broncos just their third home loss this winter.
"We've had the youngest team we've ever had and we've gone into the season, both the preseason and the conference season, with the idea in mind that we'd be playing our best in March," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "We are pleased we get to host the WAC tournament and hopeful we get a lot of people out there because I think our team is getting better and better and we're excited to be playing at home."
Nevada never trailed Saturday night, but Boise State was in contention most of the way. Broncos leading scorer Mark Sanchez canned two foul shots with 1:49 remaining in the game and the BSU crew trimmed Nevada's lead to four, 62-58.
That's as good as it got for Boise State. Nevada scored the next six points and gave up just two Broncos points after the late free throws by Sanchez to secure the road win.
Nevada, which led by eight at halftime, extended its edge to 12, 45-33, after Brandon Fields drained a 3-pointer with 15:26 showing on the second-half clock. That proved to be the Wolf Pack's largest lead of the night.
Fields led all scorers, pouring in 19 points in the win.
"Brandon Fields is really playing well and he's playing like an upperclassmen. He's been playing very mature and he's been a real key to our success the last month."
Luke Babbitt and Malik Cooke added 14 and 13 for Nevada.
Boise State proceeded to post the next seven points. A Sanchez putback made the score 45-40 with 12:57 to go in the contest. For the most part, the two teams traded buckets and stops until Nevada's game-changing spurt in the final two minutes.
Anthony Thomas finished with 12 points for Boise State, while Sanchez and Kurt Cunningham both chipped in 11.
In the first half, Nevada quickly seized control. An Armon Johnson pull-up jumper from 12 feet gave the Wolf Pack a 10-2 lead less than five minutes into the game. Nevada's lead was still eight, 20-12, at the 9:06 mark of the first half following a 3-pointer by Fields.
Boise State then reeled off eight straight points to pull into a 20-20 deadlock with 6:37 showing on the first-half clock. The host Broncos got a runner in transition with 1:15 left before the half and trailed by just two at that point, 28-26.
However, Nevada took the momentum into halftime as Lyndale Burleson and Fields buried treys on back-to-back Nevada possessions, propelling the Wolf Pack to a 34-26 advantage at the intermission.
Boise State, which scored just six points in the last 6:37 of the first half, was limited partially due to Nevada's change from man-to-man to zone defense.
"We were in just terrible foul trouble at the time and they were going to the free-throw line every time," Fox said. "So, I thought the best thing we could do was jump into the zone and try and change the rhythm of the game. We wanted to take them out of their attack at the basket and get them off the free-throw line."
Nevada opens WAC tourney play Thursday at Lawlor Events Center. Game time has yet to be determined.