The Bullet Points
- The regular season of Mountain West basketball came to a close on Saturday, and Nevada was able to check off another box on its list of goals for the year. The week began with a quick jaunt down to the South Bay for a tilt with San Jose State, and a dominant first half was the main difference in an 82-67 win. The Spartans’ 24 points on 8-of-31 shooting was the best defensive half Nevada had played all season, but things changed after the break, all the way down to a mere 10-point lead with 10-plus minutes left in the game. That was as close as they would get, however, as the Pack’s balanced scoring made up for those second half lapses on defense. Saturday’s #BrawlerAtLawlor main event was something of an opposite, with a frequently lackluster first half giving way to a much stronger second half in a title-clinching 85-72 victory. Gian Clavell’s 33 points may have gotten most of the attention, but Cameron Oliver’s night — 29 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals — wasn’t far behind. An 11-3 run to end the first half made a 10-point deficit much more manageable, and that carried over into the second half, as the Pack made the adjustments necessary to secure its first ever Mountain West basketball title.
- Let’s take a moment to truly appreciate how far Nevada basketball has come in a time frame that can only be described as “absurd.” That checklist I alluded to earlier has had some important additions since Eric Musselman’s arrival on campus not even 24 months ago. It includes ending their string of futility in the conference tournament. It includes bringing the intimidation back to Lawlor Events Center, with a 29-4 mark in home games. It includes an accompanying surge in average attendance to 8,922 fans per game, the program’s highest mark ever. It includes a snapped losing streak to San Diego State, the only Mountain West team Nevada hadn’t beaten since joining the league. It includes the program’s first ever win at The Pit in now-legendary fashion. It even includes a postseason tournament title, albeit a lesser one. But just like that CBI win, the gains the program has made are far more valuable than the hoisting of one new banner — or even two — can quantify. Even in this Mountain West Conference, this one-bid league undergoing a changing of the guard, this title signifies the return of hope to Wolf Pack revenue sports. Hope that has now been fully realized.
- With the bracket set, all eyes now shift to the Thomas & Mack Center and the Mountain West Conference tournament. Nevada will play at noon on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s tournament opener between Utah State and San Jose State. The Pack played arguably its worst game of the season in its loss at the Smith Spectrum, and although they at least salvaged a split in the next game, it became clear the Aggies are, for whatever reason, not an ideal match-up for them. The Spartans seem to pose fewer challenges in that regard, but last week’s game showed they’re also capable of beating Nevada when the circumstances are right. A win in that game would set up a rematch with either the Lobos or the Bulldogs — the one team to sweep Nevada this season. Their game at 2:30 on Thursday will be eagerly watched by Pack fans for obvious reasons. New Mexico and Fresno State split their two regular season games, so non-Nevada fans will likely find an entertaining slugfest as well. Another win there could set up a title game with any number of teams from the other side of the bracket, from a second game with the Rams to round three with the Broncos to maybe even a still-talented Aztecs team capable of catching fire again. I’ll be back from Vegas next week with a full report of what my Dad and I saw, so tune in to CBS Sports Network (shudder) and, hopefully, the real CBS on Saturday afternoon.
Ommegang Valar Dohaeris Belgian-style Tripel Ale (Cooperstown, New York) ~ So this is what the season comes down to: three games in three days in Las Vegas — or Paradise, technically. What else would I pair with a trio of heavy games but a heavy Belgian-style tripel? Probably lots of stuff, but whatevs. Golden, strong pale ales have been brewed in Belgium for a long time, but the first one to be called a tripel was brewed by Trappist monks at the Westmalle monastery near Antwerp. Ommegang is one of a few American breweries dedicated to faithfully emulating Belgian styles, and Valar Dohaeris is one of several beers they’ve tied in with HBO’s Game of Thrones (hence the name, which means “All men must serve” in High Valyrian). It poured a cloudy, golden orange with a creamy white head of decent size. Bread malts, toffee and lemongrass permeated the smell, and the taste continued those same bread malts, along with honey, toffee, light citrus notes, and spices you’ll often find in real Belgian beers. Its creamy, medium body finished slightly dry with a little more of that same spice. All of the flavors felt a little muted, like this was probably an older bottle. But what I tasted was still solid work, and its combination of spice and strength (9% ABV) represents a pretty good take on the tripel. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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