It was a big-time performance by the team from the “Biggest Little City in the World.”

After getting demolished by Utah State by 29 points in Reno back on Jan. 29, the Nevada Wolf Pack turned the tables and delivered an absolute gut punch to the Aggies Friday night to end its six-game losing streak. 

“We did not play our best tonight; they came in here a lot more hungry, and wanted it more than we did,” USU junior guard Rylan Jones said following Nevada’s stunning 85-72 victory. “They were playing desperate. And they’re a good team, so you can’t let them get going like we did.

“… And they just outplayed us. They were hungrier. We usually try and be the hungrier team, and they beat us to that tonight.”

Utah State (15-11 overall 6-7 in the Mountain West) has now lost two straight games after reeling off five wins in a row, while Nevada (10-13, 3-8) tasted victory for the first time since beating Fresno State at home on Jan. 21. 

The second half was the difference, as the Pack rebounded from a 37-32 deficit at halftime to outscore Utah State 53-35 over the final 20 minutes. 

“Congratulations to Nevada, Coach (Steve) Alford and his staff. They came in here and played a whale of a game, especially in the second half,” USU head coach Ryan Odom said. “They had 53 points in the second half and were really clicking on all cylinders.”

Senior guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. abused the USU defense for 27 points while going 10 for 16 from the field and 6 of 9 from 3-point range. His counterpart, Grant Sherfield, added 24 points of his own, knocking down 5 of 14 shots from the field but 12 out of 14 free-throw attempts.

In Nevada’s 78-49 loss in Reno, Sherfield made just 1 of 12 shots for four points, while Cambridge finished with 12 points after connecting on 5 of 12 field-attempts, including 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. 

“(Sherfield) is a dynamite player, and our guys knew that going in,” Odom noted. “He’s not a 1-for-12 guy on a nightly basis like he was in Reno in that particular game that we played down there. And Cambridge is dynamite. He was exceptional tonight making shots.”

The fact that Cambridge and Sherfield combined for 51 points — two more than the entire Wolf Pack team scored in the first game between the two rivals — tells you just how different Friday night’s game was from the contest on Jan. 29. 

While six different Aggies scored in double figures at the Lawlor Events Center, none of them put up more than 12 points as USU shot an even 50% as a team. Utah State made just 41.4% of their shots in the rematch and had just three scorers reach double figures, with senior forward Brandon Horvath (29 points) carrying most of the offensive load. 

“... We weren’t the hungrier team. That’s pretty evident.” — Utah State head coach Ryan Odom

It was a career-best scoring performance for the transfer for UMBC, who finished 9 of 15 from the field and 11 of 14 from the free-throw line while also pulling down eight rebounds in 36 minutes.

“Brandon played well,” Odom said. “He stuck to what was working for him. … But I know he would trade that effort offensively for a W in a hot second. He wasn’t jumping for joy in that locker room, I can tell you that.”

Utah State forward Justin Bean added 16 points, two 3-pointers and nine rebounds in 38 minutes, while Jones came off the bench to contribute 11 points and six assists. 

But as Jones noted, the Aggie offense was rather “sporadic” Friday night. Most notably, the home team spotted Nevada the first seven points of the game and didn’t score its first points of the night until RJ Eytle-Rock buried a 3-pointer with 15:47 left in the opening half. 

By that time, the Aggies had already committed five of their 14 turnovers for game, a significant total since USU only turned the ball a total of 22 times in their three home victories last week over Air Force, San Jose State and UNLV.

“For us, just not who we want to be overall.” Odom said. “Defensively, we struggled at times, and I think some of it was related to the offense and missing some shots. We were kind of playing how we felt at that particular time. We weren’t the hungrier team. That’s pretty evident.”

And Cambridge evidently was starving, even after coming off 36-point performance in Nevada’s 82-72 loss to Colorado State at home Tuesday night. 

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“Cambridge is on fire,” Jones said. “The last game against Colorado State he was 7 of 9 from 3 and had 36 points and missed two shots the whole game. … Tonight we just didn’t do a good job and let him get going, and he’s an elite scorer and shooter. He makes hard, difficult shots.”

3 keys to Utah State’s loss to Nevada

After shooting just 35.5% in the first half, the Wolf Pack’s field-goal percentage shot up to 60% in the second half while pulling away by as many as 13 points down the stretch. Nevada, which came into the game last in the Mountain West in 3-point field goal percentage (.324), finished the game 10 of 20 from long range. 

This is not an easy place to play, no matter who comes in here,” Alford said after Nevada ended its four-game losing streak at the Spectrum. “It’s a different place, let me just put it that way. I thought our guys did a tremendous job at just playing with poise. It’s not easy.”

“You’ve lost six games in a row and doubt’s going to hit you at some point. I thought our guys just really stayed together and kept grinding. I think we won every four-minute game in the second half. To do that on the road when you’re on a losing streak, that’s not easy to do.”

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