The Wolf Pack band played old songs throughout the Throwback Game in the Virginia Street Gym. Nevada’s basketball coach Eric Musselman stopped playing dress-up three minutes into Friday’s exhibition game against Division II San Francisco State.
Still smarting from what he called the worst home performance in his four seasons with Nevada, Musselman took off his fedora, oversized costume glasses and then his Adidas sweatshirt as his team, ranked
No. 7 in the nation by the Associated Press, struggled until midway through the second half before putting the smaller school away, 85-60.
He attributed the sluggishness to heavy legs. After losing by 18 points on Sunday in an exhibition game to Washington, Nevada went through intense workouts that included a lot of defense, running and wearing weighted vests.
“I haven’t practiced that hard in my life,” said senior transfer Tre’Shawn Thurman. “Coach and the staff really got after us. I am still hurting from the last couple of days.”
Musselman used a nine-man rotation in various forms. The combination that finally worked was with power forwards Thurman and Jordan Caroline along with the 6-foot-7 Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, and splitting time between guards Jazz Johnson and Corey Henson.
“We are trying to pursue an identity and right now we don’t have an identity,” Musselmen said.
However, he was able to identify a couple of players who should be major contributors this year. Thurman had six rebounds and 15 points, including two outside jumpers during a 10-0 run when the Wolf Pack finally pulled away from the Gators. In his 14 minutes on the floor, starting center Trey Porter made six of seven shots and scored 14 points to go along with five rebounds.
Henson played well defensively and he dove for loose balls throughout the contest. Johnson, who started the game, made all six of his free throws and had eight points in the contest.
Caleb Martin scored a team-high 19 points but was just two of nine from the three-point line. Cody Martin scored 15 points and had eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The pesky Gators were led by 7-foot senior center Ryne Williams, who made four three pointers and scored a game-high 22 points to go with 12 rebounds. The Gators made nine three pointers, seven of those in the first half. There were 12 lead changes.
Visiting NCAA Division II San Francisco State of the California Collegiate Athletic Association are guided by second-year head coach Vince Inglima, who played at Carson High School and was the Northern Nevada Player of the Year in 2001-2002.
Late in the first half, Nevada briefly played a zone defense, highly unusual if not unprecedented under Musselman. The Wolf Pack trailed by one at intermission, 39-38. The game was tied for the ninth and final time at 47. Then Nevada went on its big run. It led 59-49 with 11:10 remaining. The Gators battled back to make it 61-55 before the Wolf Pack, famous for its second-half rallies, pulled away.
Fans as well as the coaches dressed in vintage attire and Halloween costumes for the occasion in the loud gym, occupied by 1,588 on Friday. On Throwback Night, Wolf Pack players threw down six dunks. With 3:34 left, Cody Martin’s steal and slam put Nevada up 75-56, and the game was finally broken open.
The band bellowed “That’s The Way I Like It” by KC and the Sunshine Band.
While the game was close longer than Nevada supporters may have liked, Musselman was able to joke when it was over.
“We wear Adidas so we thought it would be really cool to play Run DMC, although it didn’t feel cool in the first half.”
The Wolf Pack open the regular season on Nov. 6 at home against BYU.
— Tim Parsons