Now that is what a top-10 basketball team in the nation looks like.
The No. 7-ranked Wolf Pack entered Wednesday night’s game against Colorado State winners of its last four games, although the previous two came in less-than-stellar fashion. And with the Wolf Pack offense looking more average than exceptional over its last dozen games, there were questions about how good this team really was. Those criticisms were quieted before 10,931 fans at Lawlor Events Center.
“When we play like that offensively,” coach Eric Musselman after Nevada’s 100-60 win, “we’re really good.”
It was a festive night for the Wolf Pack, which played in front of a "Pinkout" to raise cancer awareness. Musselman also was shooting for his 100th career victory at Nevada – in just 130 games – and his players gave him just that by scoring exactly 100 points when Jordan Brown hit 1-of-2 free throws with 34 seconds remaining.
“It was on auto pilot,” Musselman said. “I could have gone out in the student section and put on a pink shirt and had fun. When the guys are playing like that, they don’t really need us.”
Nevada (19-1, 6-1) started the game by making 10 of its first 12 shots, including its first five 3-pointers. Mired in a team-wide shooting slump, the Wolf Pack improved its shot selection, moving the ball crisply and working it in and out for open shots. The result: Nevada shot 56.1 percent from the field, including 13-of-27 shooting from three, tied for its second most 3-point makes this season. The Wolf Pack had 21 assists to just seven turnovers with all five starters reaching double-figures in the 40-point rout.
“Most definitely,” Trey Porter said when asked if Nevada needed a dominant win. “We all believe we’re a very talented team and we can do some great things, and today definitely showed that we are able to do stuff like that, be a spectacular team. Hopefully we don’t get star struck and stay complacent. Hopefully we can gain momentum from this and carry it on for the rest of the season.”
The game was actually competitive in the first half. A 9-0 run by Colorado State (7-12, 2-4) cut Nevada’s lead to 33-32 before the Wolf Pack closed the half on a 9-3 run to take a seven-point intermission lead. Nevada scored the first eight points of the second half to key a 25-6 spurt to open a wide gap. The Wolf Pack out-scored Colorado State, 58-25, in the second half with one huge dunk after another.
“It feels great just because we’ve been trying so hard, working so hard in practice trying to figure this stuff out,” said Tre’Shawn Thurman, who returned to the starting lineup for a sick Corey Henson, who sat out the game.
Nevada destroyed Colorado State’s weak interior defense (the Rams entered the game with the Mountain West’s poorest defense). The Wolf Pack had a 40-18 edge in points in the paint and added 11 steals to pace a 35-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
Jordan Caroline scored a season-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds while making 11-of-15 shots. Cody Martin added 19 points and five assists on 9-of-10 shooting. Caleb Martin’s 18 points came on 6-of-12 shooting from three. Porter added 13 points, and Thurman had 10 points, six assists, six boards and three steals.
The most encouraging sign came from the 3-point line, where Nevada shot its regular amount of threes (27 attempts) but made nearly half of them, sinking 48.1 percent after shooting a MW-worst 27.6 percent from three in its first six league games. After Nevada’s last win – a 15-point decision over Air Force in which Nevada made 5-of-27 treys – Musselman said his team needed to limit its 3-point attempts.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that since I’ve been here,” he said. “It got under their skin a little bit and it pissed them off a little bit. They know. They read. I told them what I said. They were having a good time when they started knocking them down and pointing at me and laughing. I just think the lid fell off tonight. Caleb played the way he did all last year hitting big shot after big shot and tonight it opened up.”
Nevada’s defense, which was less than its typical stellar self in the first half, put a vice on Colorado State’s offense after intermission. The Rams shot just 29.6 percent in the second half and turned the ball over 21 times overall, including 13 in the second half. Nevada had nine second-half steals, most leading to electric dunks that kept the Lawlor faithful on their feet for much of the final 20 minutes of the game.
“It was phenomenal, both playing and watching when I was on the bench,” Porter said. “We were forcing turnovers and it felt like we had 10 straight dunks that got everybody going, got us going, got the crowd going, got the bench going. That was great.”
Nevada reached 100 points in a MW game for the sixth time, including the fourth time in regulation. Its 40-point win was its largest in a MW game since moving to the conference in 2012. And it was extra special considering the night. The Wolf Pack raised more than $23,000 for cancer research. Prior to the game, the Martin twins and Thurman put out a social media request asking fans for the names or initials of friends and families who have battled cancer so they could put them on their shoes.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they allowed us to honor them and their loved ones whether they passed away or they’re just affected by it now or if they survived,” Caleb Martin said. “I thought it was cool that they allowed us to play in honor of them.”
The win also allowed Musselman to hit the century mark, with the Wolf Pack honoring him with a ceremony after the game. Musselman is the fastest coach in MW history to reach 100 wins and the 10th fastest in the last 50 seasons. He was doused with confetti on the court before the team drenched him with water cups in the locker room. He also was proud of his wife, Danyelle, for helping set up the Pinkout.
“When we walked out and saw the pink I thought it was a special night and to raise money like we did (was great),” Musselman said. “Our family wants to be a big part of this community and we dive in with two feet and do everything we can. I’m glad it was such a success because my wife spent a lot of time trying to pull tthis e thing off.”
Wolf Pack women snap skid
The Nevada women’s basketball team ended its three-game skid with a rout of Colorado State.
The Wolf Pack shot just 36.4 percent from the field but used a stifling defensive effort and a massive rebounding edge to top the Rams, 62-38. Nevada took a seven-point lead at halftime before outscoring Colorado State by 15 points in the third quarter thanks to a 12-0 run early in the period.
Jade Redmon led Nevada with 15 points and three assists. Camariah King added 14 points after hitting 4-of-5 threes. Terae Briggs recorded her eighth double-double of the year with 10 points and 14 boards.
Nevada held Colorado State to 14-of-52 shooting, just 26.9 percent. The Rams made only 4-of-20 threes. The Wolf Pack out-rebounded the Rams, 55-27, leading to a 20-6 edge in second-chance points.
Nevada improved to 6-12 and 2-5 in the MW; Colorado State fell to 7-10, 1-5.