By Javier Hernandez
Last night, the Nevada Wolf Pack (6-2, 0-0 MWC) defeated the Pacific Tigers (2-3, 0-0 WCC) by a score of 77-67. With the win, the Wolf Pack is off to its best start to the season since the 2006-2007 season wherein the team went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Coach Eric Musselman picked up his 30th win as the Nevada Head Coach and also picked up his 20th home win at Lawlor.
The Wolf Pack and the Tigers have faced off in non-conference play for the past 15 seasons with a majority of the games being back and forth affairs. Tuesday’s game was another tight matchup that saw seven lead changes and five tied scores. The Wolf Pack have been a second half team early in the season and have had multiple come-from-behind victories. The theme continued on Tuesday as they went on a furious 23-5 run in the late stages of the game after falling behind 50-46 with 10:34 left in the second half. The run was fueled by three straight 3-pointers by Cameron Oliver, D.J. Fenner and Marcus Marshall, respectively.
“I think lately we’ve just been coming out strong in the second half,” said freshman Josh Hall, who made his first start of his career against Pacific. “And I think we just always have big runs sometime in the second half, so I always think that we can get up by double digits in the game. I didn’t know it’d be that big of a run but I always know a run’s coming.”
Heading into the game, Musselman wanted to limit scorer Ray Bowles and the rest of the team’s attempts at the free throw line. They made it a point of emphasis to sag off Bowles and allow him to shoot long jumpers instead of driving to the rim. Despite leading the Tigers in scoring with 22 points, he did so by taking 21 shots and shot a measly 38.1 percent from the field. Most importantly, he did not record any free throw attempts all night.
“Bowles was a guy who hurt us a lot last year,” Musselman said. “We looked at his percentages this year and we made a conscious effort that we were gonna back off from him and we wanted him to shoot a high volume of field goals attempted. The game plan was to let Bowles shoot and then to keep them off the foul line. The whole game plan was to try and keep them in front of us.”
Marshall led the team in scoring for the fourth straight game with 17 points (on 3-of-9 shooting, 9-of-11 free throws). Oliver matched Marshall’s output by putting up 17 points of his own (on 6-of-12 shooting) and also grabbed eight rebounds. Lindsey Drew chipped in nine points and five rebounds. Hall contributed eight points, two rebounds and one assist. Fenner provided a spark off the bench by adding 11 points and four rebounds. Overall, the Wolf Pack shot 22-of-52 from the field, 11-of-25 from beyond the arc while also hitting 22-of-30 free throws.
“The guys, again in the second half, played a really solid second half,” Musselman said. “I thought it was our best defensive effort of the young season thus far. We want to be a high volume 3-point shooting team. We want to be a team that’s cosmetically pleasing to the fans. We want to try and score a lot of points.”
After just a short turnaround following the road trip to Alaska, the team is off on a two-game road trip starting with its next game at Bradley University (4-3, 0-0 MVC).
Javier Hernandez can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.