Corey Henson’s view for most of this season came from the bench.
But one day after Nevada’s loss to New Mexico last Saturday, coach Eric Musselman informed him that view was changing. He would start the team’s next game, against San Jose State. This was the opportunity the Wagner transfer who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules had been waiting for with the Wolf Pack. Henson cashed it in.
Playing a season-high 32 minutes in a 92-53 win over SJSU, Henson tallied season highs in points (15), assists (seven) and steals (four) while making 6-of-11 shots, including 3-of-7 threes.
“He came out aggressive and played his game and defended,” Cody Martin said. “He just played his game, played a great game overall and shot the ball well. All it took was for him to make one and he’d be good.”
Henson’s 3-point shot has been off this season, although it has been hard to judge the 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard given his inconsistent minutes. In the nine games before he started against SJSU, Henson played just 39 minutes, less a full game’s worth. He entered Wednesday’s game averaging only 2.9 points, down from the 14.6 he averaged in his last season at Wagner.
“I just knew I had to step up to the opportunity,” said Henson, who has one season of eligibility at Nevada after playing three at Wagner. “I had a couple of DNPs this year. I had a couple games where I didn’t play that much. It’s been a battle. I knew when I was given this opportunity I’d have to step up.”
Henson is shooting 45 percent from the field, including 32.1 percent from three, this season and could earn more minutes moving forward even if he doesn’t stick in the starting lineup. Henson said he didn’t necessarily show anything new in the SJSU win.
“Not anything particularly different than I’ve ever done,” Henson said. “But I got to show (Musselman) more of what I’m capable of in extended minutes. I think I just showed him I want to win and I’d do anything, whatever the team needs, whatever he wants my role to be. Defender, hustle guy, it’s whatever. I just want to win. I think that’s what I showed him.”
“I think my best attribute is my IQ, just leading guys. Obviously I’ve been known as a shooter. Stretch the floor, making smart plays. I’m a fifth-year senior, too, so leadership.”
Musselman raved about how Henson has performed in practice and said the senior’s inconsistent play this season hasn't been a surprise given the inconsistent minutes he’s given him.
“The biggest thing with Corey is probably the fact he’s a threat,” Musselman said. “Other teams might not know it based on the numbers this year, but in practice he’s if not our best shooter one of our best shooters. We feel like when he lets a shot go, it has a good shot of going in the basket. He’s also a good dribble penetrator. It’s not like he’s one dimensional, and he gets us another ball-handler on the floor.”
Henson entered the starting lineup after Caleb Martin, a preseason All-American and the reigning Mountain West player of the year, asked the staff if he could come off the bench given his recent slump.
“Caleb coming to us about not starting alleviated some decision-making because we were definitely going to change the starting lineup no matter what,” Musselman said. “It also shows his type of character.”
Musselman said he expects to change his starting lineup again Saturday when Nevada plays at Fresno State, who could be the Wolf Pack's chief challenger for the MW title. Getting enough minutes for all of his players has been a challenge this season, but Henson showed this week what he’s capable of.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a confidence boost,” Henson said. “I don’t think my confidence wavered, but it was very encouraging and I would say I’m appreciative of the opportunity.”
Nevada's rotation will probably shrink against Fresno State after seven players logged at least 20 minutes and 10 saw the court in total.
“We subbed quicker than we normally do," Musselman said of the game against San Jose State. "Going on the road, we have a lot less margin for error going forward in both of these games. Probably not going to sub as frequently. That would probably be a pretty good guess going into the game.”
Better at shooting threes?
The Wolf Pack’s 3-point accuracy has slipped from 39 percent last year to 33.7 percent this season, but Musselman said this year’s team is better from beyond the arc than last year’s team despite those numbers.
“We’re actually a better shooting team than last year,” Musselman said. “We chart all of our shooting numbers in practice and we have a four-minute NBA shooting drill, we have a drill where we do three minutes and try to get 130 points in a shooting drill. We’re a better shooting team. It’s not even close.”
It's probably best to describe Nevada as a streaky shooting team, with Caleb Martin being the driving force behind that. Martin is shooting 33.8 percent from three, down from 40.3 percent last season, but he made all six of his 3-point attempts in the second half against SJSU.
“He’s out of his slump I would say,” Musselman said.
Said Cody Martin: “We are able to hit threes and we can do it at a high rate and a great percentage. We have to be able to take those shots. Our team has gone through a slump when it comes to the three-ball and we’re starting to get out of it and play our game and shoot with a lot of confidence.”
Jazz Johnson banged up
Two Wolf Pack players missed practice Thursday and will be banged up entering the Fresno State game.
Musselman didn’t want to reveal both players who are fighting injuries, but he said one of them is sixth man Jazz Johnson, who was grabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder during the win over San Jose State.
“He’s getting some medical stuff done today and then we’ll go from there,” Musselman said Thursday.
Johnson had surgery on his right shoulder early last season, a redshirt year, and has taken some hits on screens.
“We are concerned about the health of our team, but we were concerned (against SJSU) and I thought maybe over time since the New Mexico game we’d be really healthy, but I’m not sure we are right now,” Musselman said. “There are a lot of teams across college basketball who have guys who are injured.”
Johnson is 5-of-16 from three (31.3 percent) over his last three games after making 31-of-52 threes (59.6 percent) over the first 12 games. Johnson missed one game earlier this season following a concussion.
“Hopefully we’ll be ready to roll, and if guys can’t practice or play we’ll make the most of it with who’s there,” Musselman said.
The Wurm fallout
Asked for the first time about the dismissal of walk-on Zach Wurm, who was removed from the team following a DUI arrest Sunday, Musselman said he talks to his team regularly about off-court behavior.
“We always address our team about classroom stuff,” Musselman said. “We address our team about off court. We address our team about on-court stuff. It’s the job of a college coach in any sport to always be educating, to use life lessons, so certainly we talk to our team on a daily basis on a whole variety of things. Things going on in the world, things going on with our team internally, to try and help prepare them for the real world. Winning and losing is really important, but our biggest job is how to get them ready to conduct themselves in life when they’re no longer part of this university.”
Reno to Fresno to Boise
The Wolf Pack won’t come home after its game at Fresno State on Saturday, instead heading to the Bay Area where it will then fly to Boise State, where Nevada plays on Tuesday night. With the short turnaround, Musselman didn’t want to return to Reno and risk running into a snowy pass.
“We’ll go from Fresno to the Bay Area to fly out of Oakland because there are no direct flights out of here,” Musselman said. “With snow and stuff, we don’t want to get stuck and that was the best thing because we don’t play on Wednesday. If we played on Wednesday, we’d come back.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.