Losing against in-state rival UNLV left a bad taste in the mouths of the Nevada Basketball team. Coupled with the looming Lisfranc injury to the left foot of forward Caleb Martin, the storylines shifted from seeding in the NCAA Tournament to the Wolf Pack being “in a fight for our lives” in the Mountain West Conference according to head coach Eric Musselman.
The past couple days, the Wolf Pack went through some intensive practices to address its problems on both sides of the court. Heading into last Saturday’s game, Musselman didn’t foresee how the game would turn out.
“I slept like a baby last night,” Musselman said. “I didn’t know if we were gonna win or not but I did know that we were gonna play with great energy and effort. After losing the last game, our guys did not accept it. The guys got refocused.”
In Saturday’s game against San Diego State the Wolf Pack responded in a big way. The first half mimicked the UNLV game in that both teams ran off one run after another. Deadlocked at 35 at the half, the Wolf Pack went on furious offensive spurts in the subsequent half that culminated into outscoring the Aztecs by 25.
“Obviously, Caleb had a little bit of rust to start the game off,” Musselman said. “I thought Hallice played really really well for us. And obviously when Kendall knocks down seven threes and stretches the floor; Jordan did a great job of getting angles to the free throw line. San Diego State’s a really good team and this was an ultra-important game for us to bounce back.”
Nevada held the Aztecs to 28.1 percent shooting in the second half while shooting at a 50 percent clip on the offensive end. While the Wolf Pack benefited from huge performances by Jordan Caroline (26 points, 11 rebounds) and Kendall Stephens (21 points, 7-of-13 3PT), the biggest performance of the night came from Lindsey Drew who flirted with a triple-double.
In the final minute, Drew was one assist shy away from having the first triple-double since Johnny High’s 15/11/11 statline against Southern Oregon in 1979. Caroline and Tooley had attempts to give Drew the triple double but ultimately could not convert.
Tooley, who checked into the game with 56 seconds remaining had an opportunity to nail a three with four seconds left to give Drew the assist. The new scholarship player missed what seemed to ultimately be the only thing to not go right for the Wolf Pack in the second half.
“Honestly, I was more mad at Jordan” Drew said. “Charlie was on the bench the majority of the game. There was a lot of pressure on him coming into the game. Jordan had a couple of opportunities I was looking for but it’s cool. It’s the second time that I came close to it so it is what it is. I’m just happy to get the W.”
With the win against San Diego State, Nevada reclaimed a half game lead against Boise State to earn the top spot in the Mountain West Conference Standings. The Wolf Pack’s next game is at Boise State and will be a rematch of #1 versus #2 in the conference.
Boise State lost its previous game against Utah State as the Aggies executed flawlessly on offense down the stretch, shooting 5-of-5 from the field in the last three minutes. The loss slots Nevada atop the Mountain West Conference leading into the Wednesday night matchup.
The Broncos led the Wolf Pack 63-60 with over four minutes to go in the previous showdown in Reno. It took some late-game heroics by Caleb Martin to get separation from the Broncos. With Martin playing limited minutes in the previous game against San Diego State, this should prove to be one of the most difficult games remaining on the schedule. Martin, who suffered a Lisfranc foot sprain in the waning moments of the Colorado State game played his lowest output of minutes this season in the game against San Diego State.
“Caleb goes 3-of-12 tonight and look if Jordan was out it would have an effect on us just like if Lindsey was out,” Musselman said following the victory against San Diego State. “When Cody was out in San Jose, we weren’t the same team. We’re not a deep team and when you’re not a deep team and you rely so heavily on Caleb, Cody, Jordan, Lindsey, and Kendall, make no mistake those are the guys that we really, really rely on a nightly basis. When you just take one of them out, any of them, I’m not going to sleep very well if any of those five aren’t playing.”
If their previous matchup is any indication of the what is to come on Wednesday night, then the Wolf Pack will be in for another tightly contested game. Late in the game, the Broncos had some costly miscommunication and errors that was in part due to the raucous 11th largest crowd in school history.
Per the Idaho Statesman, Broncos star player Chandler Hutchison was quoted after the Broncos loss saying, “In this case, we don’t feel like we got beat by a better team. We feel like we had some mental errors that you can’t have on the road, especially here with a great team and in this environment.”
According to Caroline, last Wednesday loss against UNLV feels like a turning point in the season which hopefully is the start of solid play down the stretch. As the Wolf Pack head into Boise in front of what should be a sold-out crowd, the Wolf Pack hope to gain separation at the top as it the Mountain West Conference tournament draws closer.
“I look at it a lot like when we lost to Utah State last year,” Caroline said. “I kind of got the same feeling when we lost to UNLV this year. Hopefully that continues and that this mentality carries on.”