Nevada Erases 22-Point Cincinnati Lead, Pulls Off All-Time NCAA Tournament Thriller
Nevada went cold and was roughed up by Cincinnati, but used a once-in-a-lifetime comeback to advance to the Sweet 16
Josh Hall hit a go-ahead layup with 9.2 seconds remaining to give Nevada the victory
Eric Musselman had the Cincinnati Bearcats right where it wanted them:
Down 22 points with 11 minutes and 34 seconds remaining.
In one of the most unbelievable and improbable NCAA Tournament comebacks of all time, Nevada stunned No. 2 seed Cincinnati 75-73 to advance to its first Sweet 16 since 2004. The Wolf Pack closed on a 32-8 run.
“We just didn’t quit. Nothing feels better than this,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman shouted passionately in the postgame interview that immediately followed the surreal win.
Caleb Martin pocketed a game-tying three-pointer with 57 seconds left and Josh Hall answered the bell on the next possession, grabbing an offensive rebound and finishing a game-winning shot in the lane with 9.2 seconds remaining. It was Nevada’s first lead of the game and also the final score; 75-73.
For Nevada, it’s the second double-digit comeback for the Wolf Pack in a 48-hour NCAA Tournament stretch. Musselman’s squad came back from 14 points down to beat No. 10 seed Texas in Friday’s round of 64 game.
“Resilience. We’ve been resilient all year and that comes with late game preparation and being able to succeed late in games,” Josh Hall said.
Cody Martin led Nevada in scoring with 25 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Josh Hall (14 points), Jordan Caroline (13), Kendall Stephens (13), and Caleb Martin (10) also finished in double figures for the Sweet 16-bound Wolf Pack.
As for Cincinnati, Jacob Evans led in the scoring category for the Bearcats. He had 19 points while Jarron Cumberland, who fouled out with about four minutes left, had 17.
Nevada opened the game on a lull, similar to as it did against Texas in Friday’s matchup. The Wolf Pack trailed 10-0 before 120 seconds came off the clock. A Jarron Cumberland three-pointer prompted a 27-10 Cincinnati advantage with just over 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Nevada was beaten on both ends of the floor on the boards while the Bearcats hit seemingly every field goal it attempted.
“The thing that’s amazing, when you look back on this game, is just the fact that we just played 40 minutes and had two turnovers against arguably one of the most aggressive, best defensive teams in the country,” Musselman said.
Nevada struggled out of the gate in the second half as well. It was a 44-32 Cincy advantage at the intermission, but a Jacob Evans jumper with 16:54 remaining pushed the Bearcats lead 55-35.
The game seemed all but decided.
The following four minutes weren’t much of an indication that we’d soon witness the second-largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. At best, Nevada traded baskets with Cincinnati as it had done earlier in the game.
Again, Jarron Cumberland added to Mick Cronin squad’s advantage, giving the ‘Cats a 65-43 lead with 11:34 remaining.
Then, the tables turned.
Cody Martin hit a jumper, Kendall Stephens followed with a triple, Caleb Martin nailed another jumper, and then Kendall Stephens hit another three-pointer, forcing Cincinnati to call a timeout. Nevada had closed the gap to 12 in just a two-minute, 25-second span.
Mick Cronin’s timeout wasn’t enough, though, as Nevada’s scoring barrage continued. Cody Martin had an and-one to cut the lead to single-digits and then had a three-pointer a couple possessions later to bring the Wolf Pack within two possessions at 65-59.
Cincinnati finally ended its scoring drought with a Gary Clark second-chance bucket, but Nevada continued to chip into the once-sizable Bearcat advantage.
Cody Martin had another and-one intersected at the under-four minute media timeout, making it a 71-68 UC lead with 3:53 on the scoreboard.
When it mattered most, Nevada had the composure it needed to scratch out the victory. Jordan Caroline grabbed an offensive board and finished and then Caleb Martin tied the game at 73 apiece with a heat check three-pointer.
Cincinnati called another timeout, drawing up a play that resulted in a missed Jacob Evans shot attempt. On the other end, Cody Martin went for the lead on a rare two-point attempt which was no good, but Josh Hall, who has had a knack for massive plays in NCAA Tournament games, snatched the offensive board, turned to the hoop, and rolled in the eventual game-winning floater to give Nevada its first lead of the game.
“When I got the rebound, one of the defenders reset the ball and couldn’t get it. I saw an opening and saw them going closer out to the shooters because it looked like I was going to spread out,” Josh Hall said about his game-winning basket.
The 22-point comeback is the second-largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. BYU overcame a 25-point deficit to knock off Iona in the 2012 First Four.
“That locker room right now, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen,” Musselman said.
“It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t be more proud of a team. Every single player in there, I mean, this feeling’s never going away the rest of any of our lives.”
Nevada advances to the South regional and will face off with its Cinderella counterpart, No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago, in the Sweet 16 round in Atlanta on Thursday.