by Jack Rieger
Nevada lost the opening game of the College Basketball Invitational championship series on Monday night against Morehead State by a score of 86-83. Tyron Criswell led the Pack with 31 points on 10-13 shooting.
The Wolf Pack offense began the game by going 4-6 from the floor, continuing their surprisingly efficient shooting spree since the CBI tournament started. Nevada’s quick start was quickly negated by a four minute scoring drought and a 7-0 run by Morehead State.
And then the Wolf Pack was faced with a familiar challenge: freshman phenom Cameron Oliver picked up his second foul just six minutes into the first half. Nevada was forced to go small, often playing five guards against an athletic Eagles roster, as Oliver didn’t return to the game until the second half.
During the 14:18 stretch without Oliver, Nevada was outscored by just three points, which is impressive considering Oliver has been by far the best player on the team and provides both defense and rebounding. The Pack trailed 38-36 heading into half thanks to a last second put-back by Tyron Criswell, who led the team with 14 points in the first half. Nevada finished the period 4-7 from three, but committed seven turnovers and was outrebounded 22-15.
The second half began with Morehead State dominating the glass, collecting nine of the first 13 rebounds, many of which were offensive boards.
Oliver once again picked up two quick fouls, the second one being a mental mistake by the freshman with 12:03 left. Oliver dunked on his defender DeJuan Morrero and added a vocal celebration at the end. Morrero retaliated by hitting a jump shot on the other end and celebrated by yelling at Oliver. Cam jogged down the court and bumped Marrero, which resulted in a double-foul. Oliver checked back in with 7:07 left, but finished with just 12 points on five field goals.
Foul trouble was ultimately Nevada’s Achilles’ heel on Monday night. The Pack combined for 25 personal fouls, most of which were in the act of shooting. Morehead State was also able to collect offensive rebounds throughout the game, mostly due to Nevada’s lack of forward depth. Criswell, Oliver, DJ Fenner and Lindsey Drew all finished with four fouls.
Tyron Criswell continued his postseason dominance, making his first seven shots and finishing viciously around the rim against much larger opponents. Criswell finished with 31 points on 10-13 shooting, including 11-15 from the free throw line. The senior has average 25 points during the CBI tournament, after averaging just 12.6 points during the regular season.
With less than three minutes left, Nevada trialed by six points. After a few possessions consisting of fouls and free-throws from both teams, Tyron Criswell drove baseline and hit a layup with about a minute remaining, bringing Nevada within three. Morehead State was then fouled by Marqueze Coleman on a drive, but missed both free throws with just over 30 seconds left, giving Nevada a chance to tie down three.
Marqueze Coleman missed a three-pointer with 16.4 seconds left, but Criswell gathered the rebound and a jump ball was called, giving Nevada possession. Coleman then missed a layup, but the ball was deflected out of bounds by Morehead State. With 4.9 seconds left, Cameron Olive hoisted a tough, but makeable three pointer that fell short, as did the Wolf Pack, losing 86-83.
Nevada will face Morehead State in game two of the best of three series on Wednesday, March 30 at 6 PM at Lawlor Events Center. If the Pack are able to win, game three will also be at home on Friday, April 1.
Jack Rieger can be reached via email @Jrieger@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @JackRieger.