by Jack Rieger
Nevada basketball fell to 5-3 on the season after a 66-62 defeat to Oregon State on Saturday, Dec. 5. The contest included 15 lead changes and plenty of emotion, including an Oregon State fan throwing a teddy bear onto the court in the second half.
Flaunting a 6-1 record, Oregon State was the Wolf Pack’s toughest opponent of the young season. Gary Payton II, son of NBA hall of famer Gary Payton Sr., led the Beavers in points, rebounds and steals, as well as shot 64 percent from the field. Payton hit a crucial three-pointer near the end of the game that proved to be the dagger, as Nevada was unable to regain the lead.
Nevada was led by guard DJ Fenner, who set a career high with 24 points, but missed a game tying three-pointer with 38 seconds left, along with a contested layup on Nevada’s next possession.
“I felt good the whole game,” Fenner said. “I guess some of them fall and some of them don’t. I wasn’t clutch in that situation. The part that kills me is I got a rebound and got a second chance and I blew that. I’m going to be in the gym when I get back and I’ll be thinking about that shot that could have tied the game. I hit that shot and it could have been a different outcome.”
Nevada dictated the pace of the game and turned the contest into an endurance test, something the team has done throughout its young season. Nevada stayed true to its identity, which emphasizes transition baskets and an abundance of free throws. Nevada shot just 32 percent from the field, but overcompensated for its lack of shooting by drawing 14 fouls and shooting 20 free throws, eight more than their opponent. Nevada’s downfall was its inability to convert opportunities in the paint, where the Pack was outscored 40-18.
The Wolf Pack out-rebounded its opponent 47-43 — something Nevada has done every game this year, and the team has also out-blocked every opponent this year. Cameron Oliver led Nevada with 12 rebounds to go along with five blocks. Oliver is now 10th in the nation in total blocks with 22, and as a team, Nevada leads the country in blocks per game. After the game, head coach Eric Musselman explained how impressed he was with Nevada’s effort.
“I don’t think a team could have played any harder than we played,” Musselman said. “It’s no secret we struggled scoring the ball. We missed a lot of layups. But you want to play as hard as you can play, give yourself a chance to win on the road and I don’t think there’s any doubt we gained the respect of who we played tonight. We just came up short and we have to learn from it.”
Nevada’s next game is on Wednesday against Fresno Pacific at home, where the Wolf Pack has only played two games. Following Wednesday’s game, Nevada has just three games before conference play starts at New Mexico on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
Jack Rieger can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @JackRieger.