Nevada Wolf Pack’s new tune: Jazz Johnson, bench spark win
Led by junior guard Jazz Johnson, the Nevada Wolf Pack basketball team scored a smooth and efficient 90-55 win against California Baptist on Monday in Reno. The sixth-ranked Wolf Pack improved to 4-0 on the season.
A transfer from Portland, Johnson had 11 points, four assists, two rebounds and steal off the bench to spark a 30-10 run that spanned over the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Fourth-year-coach Eric Musselman likes to go with a short rotation, but Johnson and his teammates gave Nevada a different look.
Johnson’s competitive mentality and smooth stroke has made an impression on head coach Eric Musselman during the four-game homestand.
“When Jazz is subbed in, the game has really changed in a positive standpoint for us,” he said. “Throughout my four years here, he’s probably been the guy who has done the most damage off the bench.”
Freshman forward Jordan Brown and redshirt senior Corey Henson joined Johnson in their efforts off the bench. The trio combined for 35 points and nine rebounds on 12 of 18 shooting. Brown scored a career-high 16. Henson returned to action after missing last game due to a family issue. The Wolf Pack shot a blistering 51 percent from the field and tallied 27 free throws.
“I was really happy to see a lot of guys get some burn out there,” Musselman said. “Some guys need to improve but they made a huge impact for us tonight.”
Jordan Caroline recorded his 30th career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Caleb Martin added 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting. After back-to-back games with double-digit assists, Cody Martin finished with just four points and one assist. He and Johnson split time running the show on offense, as Johnson finished with a season-high 28 minutes to Cody’s 24.
Trey Porter had a much improved outing on both sides of the floor. The 6-foot-11 graduate transfer from Old Dominion totaled 14 points and nine rebounds. He also moved his feet well defensively and stayed out of foul trouble that limited his playing time Friday against Little Rock.
“I liked breaking a sweat out there and giving it my all for the guys,” Porter said.
Musselman celebrated his 54th birthday in front of 9,395 fans in attendance singing a loud “Happy Birthday” cheer in the waning minutes of the game. Musselman’s real gift was the Pack’s performance on the floor.
“I heard it, it was pretty cool,” he said. “The whole community has embraced us and we’re playing some solid basketball right now.”
Joined as new members of the Western Athletic Conference, California Baptist was introduced to Division-1 level defense. The Wolf Pack held the Lancers to 31 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 47-31. Jordan Heading and Milan Acquaah each recorded a team-high 12 points each on 9-of-25 shooting.
“Once again, it was another great night for us defensively,” Musselman said. “We’ve been giving it all out there lately and it’s paid off tremendously for us. That’s the standard we set for ourselves.”
A slow offensive offensive start for Nevada fueled the Lancers early. Acquaah and Heading nailed back-to-back threes to put the Lancers up 10-6 four minutes into the game. The Wolf Pack responded with a 12-0 run highlighted by Porter’s monster slam dunk.
Nevada put on a clinic from the free throw line with a steady dose of Caroline and the Martin twins on the inside. Nevada tallied 16 points from the stripe in the first half and lead 42-24 at the whistle.
Reserves were put in place for the much of the second half. Musselman put out a lineup that featured Cody Martin, Henson, Johnson, Brown and Nisré Zouzoua, who led Nevada with five assists. The unit brought the lead all the way up to 35 and finished on a 7-0 run. The Lancers were held scoreless for seven minutes.
The Pack will hit the road for six games of non-conference play before returning home December 15 against South Dakota State.
Notes: Caleb Martin is averaging 19 points per game despite scoring just 15 points in the first half all season. … Caroline’s 1,248 career points rank 19th in school history. … Nevada is 36-2 in its last 38 home games.
— Isaiah Burrows
ABOUT Isaiah Burrows
Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.