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Nevada battles back once again in the Mountain West quarterfinals

Boise State scares Nevada in the Mountain West quarterfinal after the Wolfpack stumble out of the gates, again.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the play from Tre’Shawn Thurman and Jazz Johnson, Nevada survived an upset-minded Boise State Bronco team by winning 77-69 in the Mountain West quarterfinals.

Even when the Boise State lead by as much as 15, the game was never really over. But the Broncos did give Wolf Pack a nation a serious scare. Every time Nevada made a run the Broncos had an answer. Boise State controlled the tempo of the game by its good ball movement, which led to plenty of open shots. The 74-67 final score doesn’t show well the Broncos played in this game; they made things extremely difficult for Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline.

Here are some more takeaways from Nevada’s 77-69 victory over the Broncos.

Are Nevada’s slow starts and second-half adjustments the norm?

Nevada made some significant time adjustments utilizing Thurman on the inside and closing space on defense. After hitting their first four threes, Nevada held the Broncos to just 30% from behind the arc.

“We were too worried about the dribble drive and were giving Boise State too much space,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said. “We closed down [on defense], and their averages fell.”

Slow starts have been a plague that has infected the Nevada Wolfpack all year, and they have plagued the Wolf Pack in all of their losses this season. Playing behind the 8-ball has been a regular part of Nevada’s season. Nevada’s blowout against San Diego State in the regular season finale seemed to get the Wolf Pack back in the right direction. However, a noon start time against a hungry Boise State team was a recipe for an upset.

Unsurprisingly, the Broncos were the more energetic team to start the game. Boise State hit their first four threes of the game and lead the Wolfpack 20-7 before the second media timeout. Nevada started off shooting 2-13 from the field shooting contested jumpers, but Nevada was playing too much iso-ball. Players weren’t moving to get open until Jazz Johnson came into the game and hit two big threes.

But credit to Boise State: Every time Nevada made a push Boise State countered.

If Nevada comes out to play as they did against a quality opponent, they may not be as lucky. Musselman admitted his team was hard to watch in the first half. Nevada has started to play better to answer doubters and to position themselves to succeed in the tournament.

It seems like we are still waiting for the dominating Wolfpack team we saw in early November to show up. This game was one last scare Eric Musselman’s team needed. Nevada was able to survive without significant contributions from some of their best players. The Wolf Pack’s 15-point comeback victory was its biggest comeback win since they beat Arizona State at Staples Center. They were ready to face adversity and never quivered under pressure.

Tre’Shawn Thurman is Nevada’s difference-maker

When Jordan Caroline struggles like he did against the Broncos, the guy that needs to step up is Tre’Shawn Thurman. Thurman delivered on Thursday as Nevada’s the most efficient player on the floor by scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting.

Especially against the zone, Thurman has been that guy who has been super efficient in the middle. Thurman is often the most underappreciated part of Nevada’s core; he is the glue guy that makes this team go. Nevada has seen other teams throw zone defense thrown at them all year, yet Nevada struggled to get points inside, but it was Thurman who able to make plays around the basket in the middle of the zone defense.

Jazz Johnson is “not a normal bench player”

Eric Musselman referred to Jazz Johnson as “not a normal bench player” after the game, and Johnson proved it against the Broncos. ’The 5’10 guard came off the bench to lead Nevada with 20 points on 5-7 shooting from the three-point line.

In the postgame press conference, Johnson said he prides himself on being the spark plug coming off the bench and it’s his job to give the team instant offense. The fact is, Nevada doesn’t win this game without the play of Jazz Johnson off the bench. He helps Nevada when it’s not getting scoring from players not named Martin or Caroline.