After a tough loss against San Diego State, sixth-ranked Nevada defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs, 74-68, in one of the most physical basketball games of the season. Nevada moves to 25-2, and 12-2 in conference play.
“It was definitely a crazy game,” Nevada forward Tre’Shawn Thurman said. “Guys are fighting, guys are pushing, guys are clawing. Every play matters. Every single play matters, and you saw it tonight from both teams.”
Nevada remains undefeated at home this season, capturing their 16th consecutive victory in Lawlor, dating back to last season.
In a hard fought contest that featured 14 total ties and 13 lead changes, neither team’s lead eclipsed more than six points. Nevada shot 43.8 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from deep, draining ten threes for the first time since they last played Fresno on Jan. 12.
The Pack defense forced 17 Bulldog turnovers — including nine steals — translating into 21 points on the offensive end.
“I thought we did a really good job turning them over,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought defensively, the turnovers were a big part of the game and our ability to create steals, and we did some things defensively that we haven’t done in the past.”
Caleb Martin led all Nevada scorers with 24 points on 5-13, including 3-7 from deep, also going 11-14 from the stripe. He also added two steals and a block on the defensive end in 40 minutes of action.
Three more Pack players scratched double digit point totals. After his 38-game double digit streak ended against SDSU, Caroline began another one, tallying 17 points on 5-11 shooting. He also added three three-point baskets on nine attempts, along with six rebounds.
Jazz Johnson — entering into the starting lineup for the first time this season — played in all 40 minutes, scoring ten points, hitting three shots from deep on five attempts.
Thurman secured his second double-double of the season, scoring 14 points, a team-high 10 rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. Musselman credited Thurman for his ability to respond while coming off the bench for only the second time this season.
“I think [Thurman] is just a guy who puts winning above all else,” Musselman said. “He practices hard every day, he talks, he tries to do the right thing. We don’t win the game tonight without Tre having a really good game.”
Both teams got out to a hot start. Fresno State got out to an early 12-9 lead after making their first four shots, countering Nevada’s hot start who made three out of their first four buckets. Nevada took a 21-19 lead with 11:14 remaining, courtesy of a Caleb Martin three pointer.
Nevada controlled the game for the next four minutes, increasing the lead to 27-23 off a Jordan Caroline layup with 7:11 remaining. Both teams traded blows in the remaining time in the first half — and throughout the entirety of the game — as Nevada walked into halftime with a 42-39 lead.
Nevada extended their lead to 52-47 with 12:50 remaining after a Caroline lay-in, as the 11,019 fans in attendance rose to their feet. A jumper by Deshon Taylor — who produced a 30-point evening — gave Fresno a 62-60 lead with 4:34 remaining.
The Pack countered by going on a 10-3 run, finished off by a posterizing Thurman slam dunk, sucking the life out of the Bulldogs with 44 seconds remaining, giving Nevada a 70-65 lead. Nate Grimes made a three, but it was a “too little, too late” push, as the Bulldogs dropped their fourth conference bout.
According to Coach Musselman, the team is dealing with minor injuries and are fatigued at this stage of the season, as the team enters the final stretch.
“We got some banged up bodies for sure. The last couple of games, we have a tired group right now. We got to try to manage that and get them through with some of these injuries. We’ll do all we can to try to get them rehabbed and ready to play,” Musselman said.
Nevada finishes their two-game home stretch on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in the Silver State series against UNLV. The Rebels are 15-12, and fifth in the Mountain West a 9-6 conference record.
Matt Hanifan can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.