Ranked sixth in the nation, Nevada’s perfect season took a turn for the worst in a 85-58 blowout loss to New Mexico Saturday. This marks the second lowest point total in the Eric Musselman era. Their previous 14-0 record marked their best start to the season since 1951-52.
A poor performance on both ends of the floor spelt disaster for the Pack from the start. It not only puts a blemish on their quest for perfection, but also puts their top 10 ranking in jeopardy.
Nevada shot a season-low 33 percent from the field on 19-57 shooting and fell into a 29-point hole late in the second half. The Lobos’ 3-2 zone defense gave Nevada headaches offensively. New Mexico suffocated the paint with 6’10” forward Colten Bragg and forced the Pack to take contested shots from the perimeter. As a result, the Wolf Pack shot 18 percent from three and just one player scored in double figures.
Jordan Caroline was the lone bright spot offensively. The redshirt senior forward recorded a team-high 17 points and 8 rebounds, he’s scored in double-figures in every game this season. Caroline’s 1,355 career points in the silver and blue passed Armon Johnson for 11th all-time. Caroline served as the only source of life for the Pack at times, he punished the Lobos inside with countless layups and second chance points.
The Pack’s issues followed them all game. Nevada had 14 turnovers and were outrebounded for the fifth-straight game, 47-37. Nevada got off to another slow start and never recovered. They tried to beat the zone with quick passes around the perimeter, but shots clanked off the rim and generated fast-break opportunities for the Lobos. New Mexico got off to an early 20-6 run and, at one point, pushed their lead up to 15. Jazz Johnson’s buzzer beater three-pointer to end the half trimmed Nevada’s deficit to 38-26.
Nevada failed to claw their way back with a classic second-half surge. The Pack hit just one three in 12 attempts during the final 20 minutes and Anthony Mathis took advantage for the Lobos. Mathis slipped free off the ball with countless back-door screens drilled four threes on the night, finishing with a career-high 27 points.
Caleb Martin tried to lead another Wolf Pack comeback, but he looked out of sorts for most of the game. Instead of running a set play, Martin put it upon himself and forced several shots early in the shot clock that put the ball back into the Lobos’ grasp. Martin finished with a season-low eight points on 2-14 shooting and was 1-7 from beyond the arc.
New Mexico pushed their lead into the twenties with 14 minutes left with crisp ball movement and finding easy buckets inside. Nevada simply had no answer. The New Mexico fans capped-off Nevada’s horrid night by rushing onto the court in The Pit to celebrate the stunning upset.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.