By Javier Hernandez
The Nevada basketball team (2-1, 0-0 MWC) put on one of the most impressive victories of the Eric Musselman era in Friday’s 83-58 victory over the Oregon State Beavers (2-2, 0-0 PAC-12). The win marks Nevada’s first home victory over a PAC-12 team since Deonte Burton’s 31 point performance against the Terrence Ross led Washington Huskies on December 2, 2011.
The Wolf Pack had a balanced attack and had four players score in double digits. Cameron Oliver led the way with 24 points (on 9-of-12 shooting) and seven rebounds. D.J. Fenner, who started his second game off the bench, had 17 points (3-of-5 from beyond the arc) and three assists. Jordan Caroline tallied his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 boards. Marcus Marshall was one assist shy of a double-double as he chipped in 11 points and nine assists on the night.
Caroline set the early tone by grabbing five offensive rebounds in their first two possessions. He scored four of Nevada’s first ten points capped by a fast break layup to take the early 10-4 lead heading into the U16 timeout. Caroline’s energy from the get go was contagious as Nevada frontline played much bigger than its counterparts, which boasted a 6-foot-10 Drew Eubanks, who averaged 14.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game heading into Friday’s matchup, as well as a defensive presence in 7-foot center Cheikh N’diaye. Led by Caroline, Nevada’s frontcourt was able to hold the duo in check, only allowing them 15 points and nine rebounds combined. Nevada also won the rebounding margin 37-32.
“I thought we played really good defense tonight,” Musselman said. “They have a really big frontline. Jordan did an unbelievable job on (Tres) Tinkle. Our defense inside, which was something we had talked about, has drastically improved in a short amount of time.”
Oregon State came into the matchup ranked first in the nation in free throws attempted with 35 in three games. Musselman stressed that this was a major key in stopping the Beavers on offense. Musselman also wanted to limit Beavers scoring leader Tres Tinkle from getting to the foul line. At night’s end, Nevada was able to limit Tinkle to three free throw attempts and held the Beavers to only seven free throw attempts.
“Tinkle was fourth in the nation in free throws attempted,” Musselman said. “Coming into tonight, Oregon State led the country in free throws attempted. The big emphasis was to not let them get easy points from the foul line. We did a really good job of moving our feet and not using our hands.”
Oliver, who has been limited by foul trouble in Nevada’s first two games, was finally able to play over 20 minutes and turned in a dominating performance against the team he committed to out of high school. He did most of his damage in the first half as he scored 20 points (on 8-of-10 shots) despite the Beavers throwing multiple defenders at him.
“It was sweet man,” said Oliver, who committed to Oregon State coming out of high school but was left out due to changes with the coaching staff. “Anytime I go against Oregon State, there’s always a chip on my shoulder. I want to show them that aggression, show them what they’re missing out on.”
Nevada will have one day to prepare until its next matchup on Sunday against Iona to kick off the Great Alaska Shootout. Iona (0-1, 0-0 MAAC), who has been to the NCAA Tournament two of the last four years, will be a tough challenge for the Wolf Pack. With a large exodus of players due to graduation, the Gaels return one of the youngest rosters in the NCAA. However, expectations are still high for the Gaels as they return two of their top three scorers from last season in Jordan Washington and Deshonee Much.
“I thought it was a great game for us,” Musselman said. “However, Iona’s a big game. It’s a team that’s been to the (NCAA) Tournament a lot. Last year they were. They’re gonna come in here with fresh legs and it’s really important that our guys get rest tonight and tomorrow. We have as short a turnaround as we’ll have other than tournaments to try and prep and get ready.”
Javier Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.