A four-game stretch of home games to open the season concludes tonight – coach Eric Musselman’s birthday — when the Nevada men’s basketball team hosts Division I newcomer California Baptist. Part of the two-weekend Continental Tire Las Vegas Holiday Invitational, the game tips off at 7 p.m. in the Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack is 3-0 and ranked sixth in the nation in The AP poll, the highest in program history. After tonight’s contest, they will play six road games. Nevada’s next home game will be Dec. 15 against South Dakota State, which played in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
The Lancers are 2-1 and are new members of the Western Athletic Conference. California Baptist went 132-29 in five seasons in the Pac-West Conference, reaching the Division II NCAA Tournament each year, including 2017-18 when it advanced to the Elite Eight.
Australians comprise the team’s two returning starters, senior guard Jordan Heading from Adelaide and junior forward Bul Kuol from Canberra.
WAC media and coaches picked the Lancers to finish eighth in the nine-school conference. Heading, who averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 assists last year, is undaunted.
“We are not afraid in any way of anything that comes with being Division I,” he said. “We are prepared and we are fearless.”
California Baptist’s lone loss was at Tulsa, 82-79, of the American Athletic Conference.
Coming off a season in which it advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Division I NCAA Tournament, Nevada is very experienced and very tall. It starts five redshirt (fifth year) seniors: 6-foot-7 Cody and Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline, 6-8 Tre’Shawn Thurman and 6-11 Trey Porter. Freshman Jordan Brown (6-11) is coming off his best game – 12 points, 11 rebounds in an 87-59 rout against Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday. Junior guard Jazz Johnson is averaging 13.7 points a game.
Defensive standout Cody Martin continues to play point guard as senior Lindsey Drew recovers from an Achilles heel injury he suffered late last season. Martin is averaging more than 10 assists per game and has had just six turnovers all year.
Caleb Martin, the first preseason All-America selection in Nevada history, leads the team in scoring at 20.7. Jordan Caroline, the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week, averages 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds.
Fourth-year coach Eric Musselman will blow out 54 candles on his birthday cake, but he has been using only eight players.
Redshirt senior Corey Henson has spelled Cody Martin at the point. However, he missed Friday’s game due to a family issue and his status for tonight’s game has not been revealed.
Junior guard Nisre Zousoua scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons at Bryant from the Division I Northeast Conference. But he’s made just one of 10 three-point shots for Nevada. He’s averaging 11.3 minutes of playing time per game.
Transfers JoJo Anderson and Jalen Harris, both guards, are practicing, but are ineligible this season. Freshmen KJ Hymes, a 6-10 center/forward, and Vincent Lee, a 6-8 forward, and 6-7 local walk-on swingman Jalen Townsell have not played. If they don’t see any action this year, they would return next season as redshirt freshmen.
Last week, 6-6 swingman Eric Parrish, a former starter at Akron, announced he will join the Wolf Pack next season. He’s playing this year a Bossier Parish Community College.
Nevada is ranked sixth by AP for the second-straight week. It moved from ninth to seventh in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
— Tim Parsons