The 12th-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack ran the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels out of the gym in a 89-73 thrashing of its in-state rival Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 26-2 overall and remain in first place in the Mountain West Conference with a 13-2 mark.
From the opening tip, the Rebels couldn’t keep up with the Pack. Nevada stepped on the gas pedal, finding easy scoring opportunities in transition and turned 17 UNLV turnovers into vicious slams in the open court. The Wolf Pack forced the issue with nine steals and recorded 19 points off turnovers.
“We really played with an aggressive pace, Musselman said. “We opened up the game in the first 20 minutes and we got some really good looks.”
Nevada shot a scorching 53 percent from the field and 48 percent from behind the arc. The “big three” of Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline and Cody Martin combined for 67 points on 24 of 44 shooting.
“Our big three played great,” Musselman said. “When those three play good, we are phenomenal and those three guys were absolutely spectacular.”
Caleb Martin tallied a game-high 24 points on an efficient eight-of-13 shooting from the floor. He stalled any momentum the Rebels had with a dagger from 3-point range via the catch and shoot.
“We were just clicking out there tonight,” he said. “It feels good to get the win, and even take the series.”
Cody Martin followed close behind with a season-high 23 points, including a career-high four 3-pointers. His presence on the outside helped him utilize his signature pump fake and drive into the lane, tacking on easy points from the free throw line in the process.
“I feel like they’d rather make me shoot,” he said, “because when I drive in the lane I can finish and make plays for the other guys. But if it’s open, I’ll take it.”
Jordan Caroline bounced back from a short two-game slump with his 16th double-double of the season, scoring 20 points and adding 12 rebounds. Caroline bullied his way through the paint and cleaned the glass with a even flashed a few left-handed finishes.
In his final season with Pack, the fifth-year senior has grown to appreciate the “Sweet Caroline” anthem during breaks in the action.
“I hear it, but I just try to stay focused on the game,” he chuckled. “It’s a bit hard not to hear it, but I like it.”
Following road games at Wyoming and San Diego, Musselman turned to two key reserves to spark some energy into a fatigued, banged-up Wolf Pack squad. Senior Corey Henson and freshman Jordan Brown each played more than 10 minutes and filled the void while Caroline and Caleb Martin caught a breather.
“I like how we really played as a complete unit out there tonight,” the coach said. “We really did a great job sharing the basketball, having 20 assists in college is not an easy thing to do and the guys made it look kind of easy.”
Nevada suffocated UNLV inside and kept active hands defensively, limiting the Rebels to 44 percent shooting from the field. Amauri Hardy scored a team-high 19 points, but junior guard Kris Clyburn led a second half surge with a barrage of 3-pointers. Clyburn was second on the team with 18 points.
Tre’Shawn Thurman was re-inserted back into the starting lineup after stuffing the stat sheet against Fresno State. The senior forward joined Trey Porter, Caroline and the Martin twins to make up the usual starting five.
Nevada nailed its first two 3-pointers in route to a 17-8 run during the first 10 minutes of action. The Wolf Pack pushed the lead up to 13 with back-to-back Cody Martin jumpers. Nevada closed the half out on another 13-5 run and led 46-28, highlighted by a Caleb Martin finger roll.
UNLV’s hot start coming out of the break cut the deficit to 47-33. Nevada responded with a steady dose of Caroline inside and the streaky shooting of the Martin twins. Back-to-back threes from Kris Clyburn forced a Musselman timeout and cut Nevada’s to 68-57. The Wolf Pack closed the game out with made baskets from Caroline and Corey Henson.
Nevada hits the road to face the Utah State Aggies Saturday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Utah State is 23-6 overall and 13-3 in conference play this season. The Wolf Pack needs a win to ensure the regular season conference title.
Nevada retired the No. 22 worn by forward Nick Fazekas in a halftime ceremony. In his four seasons with the Wolf Pack, Fazekas led them to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances-including Nevada’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance and is the all-time leading scorer with 2,464 career points. “He’s meant so much to Northern Nevada,” Musselman said.
“It was great for him to enjoy that moment.”
Junior guard Jazz Johnson will wear the No. 22 for the rest of the season, after which the jersey will not be worn again.
Notes: A paid attendance of a season-high 11,289 set a new total attendance record of 151,926 in just 14 home games so far this season. Nevada is also averaging a school record of 10,818 fans this season, smashing a previous high was 9,048 set last season. “A lot of people couldn’t get into the building tonight, and that’s a pretty cool thing,” Musselman said. “I think we could’ve played anybody tonight and it would be sold out. … It looked like a big-time environment and our community has been phenomenal. They love this team. … The Wolf Pack have not trailed in ten games this season. … Jordan Caroline is sixth all-time in Nevada scoring with 1,695 points in the silver and blue. … Nevada is ranked 19th in the latest NET ranking released by the NCAA. … The Wolf Pack have been ranked the last 22 weeks dating back to last season.
— Isaiah Burrows