Nevada (7-4) trailed the Dons 27-26 at halftime, but after Malik Story made a lay-up to give the Wolf Pack a 28-27 lead just 1:29 into the second half, Nevada never trailed again.
The Wolf Pack led by as many as 15 in the second half, but San Francisco (5-3) cut Nevada's lead to two after Cody Doolin hit a pair of free throws to make it 51-49 with 2:41 to play.
Nevada was 17 of 24 from the free-throw line, out-rebounded the Dons 45-30 and forced San Francisco to turn the ball over 18 times.
Purdue coach Matt Painter says players haven't used the fifth-year graduate transfer rule for its true intent.
The dust has settled after players made their NBA draft decisions. Which college teams won? Which lost? Well, Villanova is pretty happy. USC, meanwhile, might not be as thrilled.
The 2017 recruiting class is short on point guards, with Trevon Duval leading only eight prospects from the ESPN 60 who are still available.