The Nevada basketball team lost to BYU, 75-42, on Tuesday night in Provo, Utah to snap its five-game win streak, which dropped the Wolf Pack to 7-4. Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Historically bad offensive night
Nevada was held to 42 points in the loss. The last time the Wolf Pack was held to fewer than 42 points in a game was Dec. 29, 2001 when the Wolf Pack dropped a 58-40 decision at Hawaii. What movie was No. 1 in the box office at the time? The Lord of the Rings' first installment. And which song was No. 1 on the charts? "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback. And anytime you're mentioned in the same sentence as Nickelback, you know things have gone off the rails. The Wolf Pack came in smoking offensively, hitting 178-of-357 shots over its previous six games, good for 49.9 percent. It also had a string of five straight games with double-digit makes from three, a stretch in which the Wolf Pack had made 63-of-132 treys (47.7 percent). Simply put, Nevada was playing great offense. But it was completely disassembled in this game. The Wolf Pack was held to 24.6 percent shooting, including 3-of-23 from three. It had a season-low five assists and only 12 free throws attempts (tied for the second lowest this year). Leading scorers Jazz Johnson (eight points, 2-of-13, 1-of-8 from three) and Jalen Harris (15 points, 5-of-20, 0-of-3 from three) were both held in check. Only Lindsey Drew (10 points, 4-of-6 shooting, 2-of-4 from three) had a decent offensive game. If BYU had a stifling defense this season, this could make some sense. It does not. This was just a bad night for Nevada, which scored 58 points per 100 possessions, its lowest mark since at least 2008 (the furthest the numbers go back).
2. Struggles against top teams continue
Nevada built its five-game win streak with victories over Fordham, Valparaiso, Bowling Green, Santa Clara and Air Force. None of those are top-100 teams in the nation. Per KenPom, they rank 214, 169, 107, 131 and 203, respectively. While victories count all the same in the win-loss column, it was wise to reserve judgment on the caliber of the Wolf Pack until it faced another high-level opponent. That high-level opponent was BYU, and Nevada suffered its most lopsided loss (33 points) since a 98-42 defeat at Colorado State (56 points) on Jan. 14, 2015 in the final season of the David Carter era. During its five-game win streak, Nevada trailed for only 74 seconds over 200 minutes of action. Against BYU, it trailed the entire game in the wire-to-wire loss. This continues a pattern of the Wolf Pack struggling against the better teams on its schedule, the team losing to Utah (by five), USC (by 10), Davidson (by 20) and now BYU (by 33). The Wolf Pack has one more non-conference game against a high-level team: versus Saint Mary's in San Francisco on Dec. 21. The Gaels rank 46th in KenPom, which makes it the second-best non-league team Nevada will play behind only BYU (42nd). The Mountain West isn't loaded with top-100 teams as only San Diego State (32nd), Utah State (48th) and New Mexico (88th) qualify there. But the Wolf Pack hasn't shown it is capable of beating those kinds of teams one-third of the way through the season.
3. NCAA at-large chances vanquished
Entering the game, I outlined the slim path Nevada had to getting an NCAA Tournament at-large bid for the third straight season. The Wolf Pack basically had to beat BYU and Saint Mary's, beat SDSU or Utah State at least once, go 12-6 or better in the MW regular season and get to the conference tournament title game. With the loss to BYU, those hopes are over barring the team going 16-2 in MW play or something crazy. The odds were always slim the Wolf Pack would be able to get an at-large berth this season, although the non-conference schedule was strong enough to make that reasonable if Nevada pulled off some upsets. The Wolf Pack has run out of chances there, meaning the only way it will qualify for a fourth straight NCAA Tournament would be by winning the MW Tournament and getting the conference's automatic bid. Nevada now gets seven days off before hosting Texas Southern, who is coached by ex-Wolf Pack assistant Johnny Jones. That game should be a win as Texas Southern is 3-6. After that is the game with Saint Mary's before MW action begins in full. Nevada has had a solid non-conference run, but it has missed a number of opportunities at résumé-boosting quality wins.