After appearing in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the second time this season following its home win over Boise State, the Wolf Pack lost a heartbreaker in Laramie, Wyoming. The Wolf Pack was unable to secure the road victory as the Cowboys snuck out with a tight double-overtime victory, winning 104-103 last Wednesday night.
“We had some guys play really good and some guys who didn’t play very good,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said. “We had a stretch where we turned the ball over in the first half and I thought that was game-changing. We got sloppy with the ball and took some bad shots and you cannot do that on the road when you’re playing a good team and every possession matters.”
Offensively, the Wolf Pack kept themselves in the game through making the most of its attempts at the free throw line. Nevada did not miss a free throw attempt until under two minutes in regulation. However, after the miss by forward Elijah Foster, the Wolf Pack shot 53 percent for the remainder of the game, going 8-for-15 from the charity stripe.
While the Wolf Pack did not play its best game this season, they had multiple opportunities to secure the win. In regulation, Foster’s missed free throw and Jordan Caroline’s missed free throw in the following possession could have given the Wolf Pack a two-possession lead with under 30 seconds left in the game. Instead, Wyoming’s Justin James, who recorded another 30-point performance, tied the game with a layup with 21 seconds remaining. In the following possession, Caleb Martin, who appeared to have been hit in the arm in the act of shooting, missed a game-winning three-pointer.
In the first overtime, down by one point, Caroline had an opportunity at the free throw line to give Nevada the lead. However, fatigue seemed to set in as he missed the front end of a double bonus free throw trip.
“It’s fatigue,” Caroline said. “I went 9-for-11. I made my first seven and split my last four. You just have to fight through. You just have to push through. It is what it is.”
With the loss, the Wolf Pack drop to 18-4 on the season and suffered its first conference loss of the season. Despite the loss, the Wolf Pack still sits atop the Mountain West Conference standings.
After a week off, the Wolf Pack will return to play tomorrow against the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are coming off a close loss to Utah State last week. However, they defeated UNLV at home and San Diego State on the road in its previous outings. The game against the Bulldogs will be an 8 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
Nevada is usually good at limiting a team’s transition offense, giving up a season average of 46.3 percent effective field goal percentage in transition. That number rose to 61.8 against Wyoming. Add to that the fouling out of both Lindsey Drew and Kendall Stephens, the Wolf Pack were spread thin defensively and had to play its guys extended minutes at high altitude. At home, the Wolf Pack needs to establish its pace on both sides of the floor and it starts with limiting the scramble defense situations.
The last time out, the Wolf Pack played a near-flawless game at the Save Mart Center against the Bulldogs. It converted 58 percent of its three-point attempts and was able to convert at a high rate at the rim, scoring 62.5 percent in a non-transition offense. Stephens tied his season-high five three-pointers that game and helped spark the Nevada offense. However, the key to winning that game was its defensive performance. Nevada limited Fresno State to 25 percent shooting from long-range, had a 10-0 fast break advantage and scored 19 points off of turnovers. Against Wyoming, the combination of the Cowboys’ pace and their defensive struggles contributed to a less than stellar offensive output. The Wolf Pack needs to find its rhythm and return to its sound defensive play.