Nevada’s six-man rotation might not be just a Sweet 16 memory.
The Wolf Pack showcased its 2018-19 team on Sunday in an exhibition game before 4,069 in the Lawlor Events Center, losing to Washington in what coach Eric Musselman called, “the worst home performance we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
The two-time defending Mountain West champions lost 91-73, allowing 52 points in the second half. At halftime the Wolf Pack led 40-39. But the Huskies had an early 7-0 run in the second half and never looked back.
Musselman said his team quit with about three and one-half minutes remaining.
“The performance was completely unacceptable,” he said. “We have bad lateral-foot-speed guys. To put 52 on us in the second half, the rest of the (Mountain West Conference) will be excited to see that.
“The bench lacked effort tonight. We might have to go back to a short rotation.”
The Pac-12’s Washington took Nevada out of its rhythm with a zone defense. Although it was an exhibition opener, three of its players were on the court 37 minutes and another played for 34.[pullquote]Maybe we needed a punch in the mouth to wake some people up.” — Caleb Martin[/pullquote]
With the exception of the Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, and Jordan Caroline, all of the Nevada players who played Sunday are new. They were joined in the starting lineup by a Nevada version of the twin towers, graduate transfer Trey Porter and highly touted freshman Jordan Brown, who are both 6-foot, 11-inches tall. The 2017-18 Mountain West Coach of the Year employed a nine-man rotation.
Caroline led Nevada with 21 points and eight rebounds. Cody Martin scored 11 and Caleb Martin and Brown each scored 10.
The Huskies shot a blistering 61.7 percent from the field and made 11 out of 22 three-point shots. Jaylen Nowell led the way with 26 points. David Crisp added 20, while Dominic Green scored 12. The star of the game, Matisse Thybulle, had 17 points, five steals, six assists and six rebounds.
“Their stars played like stars,” Musselman said. “Thybulle is just a stud. He can do anything.”
Washington finished second in the Pac-12 last year, coach Mike Hopkins’ first with the team. It returns virtually its entire team.
Porter plays well above the rim. He had seven points and two rebounds. Brown had had two assists, including one on a behind the back flick, but he had two passes stolen. He displayed excellent pivot moves, a soft shooting touch and had eight rebounds, two that he ran down.
But in the second half, there wasn’t a whole lot of hustle from Nevada.
“It’s embarrassing,” Cody Martin said. “We didn’t come to play. It’s a reality check. I hope it’s a wake-up call. If not it’s going to be a long season.”
Musselman said he might resume using a very short rotation again this year and is considering using a zone defense.
“They stunk,” he said. “They didn’t play hard, can’t defend. We can’t play man-to-man. It’s a joke.”
“Everything coach just said is right,” Caleb Martin said. “Guys have bad practice habits. You can’t turn it off and on just because we have size, length and depth now, because we don’t even have that. I know the bench is going to get shorter. Maybe we needed a punch in the mouth to wake some people up.”
The Martins are not identical twins, but their assessment was the same.
“You heard coach,” Cody Martin said. “If you want to be in the rotation, you are going to have to take it seriously. Every game matters, even this one. We’ve got to figure it out come tomorrow.”
Four transfers who practiced with the team but were ineligible to play last season saw action. The most impressive was forward Tre’Shawn Thurman, who had six points, five rebounds and three assists. Guard Jazz Johnson was a ball of energy on both ends of the court in the first half. He knocked down a three-pointer and made all three of his free throw attempts in just 12 minutes of action. Guards Nisre Zouzoua and Corey Henson were a combined 1-for-10 from the floor. Freshman forward K.J. Hymes made a brief appearance in the game.
Nevada led by nine points with 5:27 remaining in the first half. There were seven lead changes and the game was tied five times. The Wolf Pack out rebounded the Huskies 37-34.
Jamal Bey, a member of last season’ Nevada 4A champions Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, played briefly in the first half for Washington.
After a first-half dunk, Caleb Martin crashed into Nevada’s house cameraman Jim Dunigan, who flipped backwards out of his chair. Minutes later, the ball smashed into the camera, parts of which flew to the floor, and knocking Dunigan’s Boston Red Sox cap off his head. “The season has started,” he joked at halftime.
The Wolf Pack will play another exhibition game on Friday at home in the Virginia Street Gym against San Francisco State. The regular season starts Tuesday, Nov. 6, a nonconference game against BYU in Reno.
— Tim Parsons