RENO—Tuesday’s Mountain West matchup at Lawlor Events Center featured two different teams. One team that has. And one team that has not—yet.
The squad that has, San Diego State (15-6, 8-0), proved why it is the defending conference champ, scoring 13 of the final 16 points to come from behind and hand a young Nevada team (12-8, 4-4) a 57-54 loss.
“I hate losing,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Hopefully every person in that locker room hates losing. I don’t care if we play the NBA champ.
“Am I going to smile tonight because we were close? Absolutely zero chance that I will be happy until we win our next game.”
Even with the Aztecs’ late run, Nevada had a chance to win the game in the final seconds.
Winston Shepard missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12.6 seconds left to leave Nevada down just 55-54. Marqueze Coleman led the ensuing fast break and kicked to an open Tyron Criswell who drove baseline and drew heavy contact at the rim, but couldn’t finish and didn’t get the call.
The no call was much to the displeasure of the 6,250 in attendance—the smallest attendance this year for a Mountain West contest.
Musselman said he didn’t ask for an explanation regarding the absent whistle.
“I had my guy and then TC’s guys was damn near guarding me as well so I saw him and the corner and kicked it to him,” Coleman said of the play.
Coleman was the only Nevada player to finish in double figures. He had 21. However, he was 1-of-4 down the stretch at the charity stripe.
Trailing 55-53 with 17.6 seconds left, Coleman hit the first but missed the second. Three minutes prior, with Nevada leading 51-50, he missed a pair.
“I have to be a better senior leader and make my free throws down the stretch,” he said.
Nevada lost late despite leading 51-44 with 6:10 remaining following a Criswell bucket. The Pack did not hit another field goal until 58 seconds remained when Coleman finished at the rim to sneak Nevada within 55-53.
“I thought we put ourselves in chances to win throughout the game,” Musselman said. “Our guys played really hard. Our program has come pretty dog gone far in a short amount of time.”
The Pack led for 26:26, including a 33-26 edge at the half, while the Aztecs led for just 6:36.
Nevada will look to bounce back from the loss on Saturday at Utah State (11-8, 3-5).
“We want it to hurt because obviously it’s a loss,” junior guard D.J. Fenner said. “So what we do is take out our anger on the next opponent.”