Having already clinched the WAC title, Nevada can now shift its focus to its final two regular-season games and potentially matching a school record for wins.
The 10th-ranked Wolf Pack look to extend their win streak to 10 Thursday night as they conclude a stretch of three straight road games with a matchup against Utah State.
With a 95-81 victory over Boise State on Saturday, Nevada (26-2, 12-1) clinched the WAC regular-season title outright for the third straight season. While coach Mark Fox is pleased with his team’s accomplishments, he knows the Wolf Pack will be judged on how they perform once the regular season concludes.
“We’re happy with winning this,” Fox said. “But it’s not the end of our season. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to reach all of our goals.”
Senior forward Nick Fazekas, the 2005 and 2006 WAC player of the year, led five players in double figures with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field Saturday. Ramon Sessions added 17 points and Denis Ikovlev had 14 for the Wolf Pack, who shot 53 percent (35-of-66) from the field and 50 percent (11-of-22) from 3-point range.
Nevada, which has the fewest losses among Top 25 teams, is two wins shy of matching the school record for a single season. The 1945-46 team went 28-5.
The Wolf Pack close the regular season Saturday at home against New Mexico State, one of two teams to beat them this season.
“We definitely don’t want to look past Utah State, because they play well in their environment,” Fox said. “Both games are very crucial. It’s a bigger challenge to go out and try to win both.”
Nevada has already clinched the top seed in next week’s WAC tournament in Las Cruces, N.M, where it will face the winner of the play-in game on March 8.
Fazekas was named WAC player of the week for the second time this season after averaging 24.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in wins over Idaho and Boise State.
He is second in the conference in scoring at 20.9 points per game, trailing Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll (21.6). Fazekas is first in the WAC and third in the nation with 11.4 rebounds a contest.
Two consecutive losses have dropped Utah State (20-9, 8-6) into a three-way tie for third in the WAC. The Aggies, who had won five in a row before the back-to-back defeats, haven’t dropped three straight since Feb. 25-March 4, 1999.
Carroll scored 27 points, but didn’t get much help from his teammates Saturday in an 84-71 loss at Louisiana Tech.
Utah State’s only meeting this season with a ranked opponent resulted in a 79-62 loss to Nevada on Jan. 27. The Aggies are 9-54 all-time against Top 25 teams, including 3-11 under coach Stew Morrill.
Fazekas had 24 points and a career high-tying 18 rebounds in Nevada’s win over the Aggies on Jan. 27. It was the third straight victory in the series for the Wolf Pack, who ended a four-game losing streak at Utah State with a 75-57 win on Feb. 25, 2006.