Freshman center Jordan Brown shined in his first big opportunity, leading the Nevada basketball team to an 87-59 victory Friday against Arkansas-Little Rock at Reno’s Lawlor Events Center.
Ranked sixth in the nation, the Wolf Pack improved to 3-0 on the season. The Trojans of the Sun Belt Conference are 2-1.
The 6-foot-11 Brown flashed the tools that made him a highly touted prospect during his senior year at Prolific Prep High School in Northern California. He entered the game early when senior starting center Trey Porter picked up two quick fouls. Brown bullied Little Rock down low with jump hook shots and he stretched the defense with two free-throw-line distance jumpers. Brown finished with a career-high 12 points to go along with 11 rebounds and one block in 26 minutes for his first career double-double.
“Jordan had a huge impact on the game for us tonight,” coach Eric Musselman said. “He continues to get better and he’s given it all these last couple of weeks of practice.”
Brown is adding a new element to the Wolf Pack offense.
“I’m just getting used to the flow of the game,” he said. “And I’m bringing a lot of energy and I think I’m starting to break out of my shell.”
The rest of the Wolf Pack fired on all cylinders offensively. They shot 53.6 percent from the field and recorded a season-high 22 assists. Five players scored in double figures, Caleb Martin tallied a team-high 19 points and six rebounds. Jordan Caroline added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Cody Martin recorded 14 points and dished out 10 assists. He’s had double-digit assists in all three games this season and is in command as floor general of the Wolf Pack offense.
“He’s got the keys to the car, he runs the show and calls me off on plays,” Musselman said. “He’s a next-level point guard with a great basketball IQ and he’s letting the game come to him.”
The Wolf Pack stymied Little Rock defensively, as the Trojans shot 35 percent from the field and 26.7 percent behind the arc. Brown and Caroline formed a barrier on the inside and forced the Trojans to run their offense from the perimeter. Junior guard Rayjon Tucker led Little Rock with a game-high 21 points.
“I’ve been really impressed with our defensive effort out there,” Musselman said. “It’s different from last year’s team but we’re doing a great job adjusting to our opponent.”
Little Rock is led by first-year coach Darrell Walker, who spent time as head coach of the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards after a 10-year NBA career.
Martin kept Trojans’ freshman star guard Markquis Nowell quiet from the field, holding him to just six points on 2 of 12 shooting. Nowell scored 34 points in his first collegiate game against Southeastern Oklahoma.
“That Nowell kid is pretty good and Cody bothered him all night,” Musselman said. “So you’re talking about a guy whose doing all this stuff offensively and still locking guys down on the other end.”
Musselman ran out the senior starting five of Caroline, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Trey Porter and the Martin twins for the third-straight game. Brown was inserted earlier than expected after Porter picked up two personal fouls two minutes into the contest. The 6-11 graduate student transfer from Old Dominion played just 11 minutes before fouling out.
Caleb Martin snapped out of his first-half scoring woes, he nailed a spot-up three pointer to put the Wolf Pack on the board. Nevada was in the bonus just four minutes into the game but continued to play up tempo. Brown and Cody Martin were the primary beneficiaries of easy transition layups.
Nevada began to pull away, recording two 7-0 runs to go up double digits in the early going. Caroline’s second three-pointer of the half capped-off a 15-5 run to close out the first half, Nevada led 43-23.
Up by as many as 34 in the second half, Musselman experimented with both Porter and Brown on the floor. Both Martin twins connected on a high-flying alley oop. Jazz Johnson added nine points in the second half. Nevada coasted to a 17-5 run over the course of five minutes and never looked back.
The Wolf Pack hosts California Baptist at 7 p.m. Monday for the finale of a four-game homestand.
“Our fan base brings a different kind of energy on the court,” he said. “I know they’ll be there supporting us.”
Notes: Jordan Caroline has 29 career double-doubles, sixth best in school history. … Cody Martin 31 assists and just six turnovers this season. … The Wolf Pack have made more free throws (63) than opponents have attempted (50). … Nevada has outscored opponents 145-108 in the second half. … Jazz Johnson finished with a season-high 17 points. The transfer from Portland has scored in double digits in all three games. … 10,273 attended the game at Lawlor Events Center. … Nevada guard Corey Henson missed the game due to a family issue, Musselman said. His status for Monday’s game is unknown. … The Little Rock and California Baptist games are part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Holiday Invitational. Nevada plays two games in Orleans Arena next weekend to conclude the tourney. … On Nov. 27, it’s the Sweet 16 rematch with Loyola Chicago. … Musselman improved to 24-0 in home nonconference games. His career record at Nevada is 84-29.
— Isaiah Burrows