Nevada relies on the Tooley effect and rallies to defeat Arizona St.
It was January 7th 2017, Nevada was playing New Mexico in the Pit and for 29 minutes New Mexico had imposed it’s will on the Wolf Pack. With Nevada down 26 points and only 11 minutes left in the game Coach Eric Musselman inserted walk-on guard Charlie Tooley into the game, seeming a sign of surrender.
Tooley rarely played in games where the outcome was still undecided and there was no reason to believe that night was going to be any different.
He took advantage of the opportunity to immediately put up a long distance 3 point attempt that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. What followed was one of the most historic comebacks in college basketball history that is still being felt today.
Last night at the Staples center Nevada relied on it’s history of being able to come back from double digit deficits to defeat previously undefeated Arizona State.
The first half belonged to the Sun Devils, they sped Nevada up and forced an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers. On offense Lugentz Dort the Sun Devils 6-4 freshman guard showed why he is so highly thought of by NBA scouts as he sliced through Nevada’s defense almost at will. For 20 minutes Arizona St. looked like the better team as they went into the locker room with a 12 point lead 36-24.
That is not a misprint, 24 points is all Nevada could score in the first half. The second half was another story altogether as the Wolf Pack doubled their pre-intermission total in the final 20 minutes while holding the Sun Devils to 30 points. For the 7th time in Musslemans short tenure at Nevada the Wolf Pack came back from a double digit deficit at half to win, that is more than any other program over the last 3 and a quarter seasons.
Neither team shot the ball well from behind the arc, Nevada finished up 3-18 from 3 while Arizona State was 5-20. Unable to rely on what was the trademark of last years team, the 3 point shot, the Wolf Pack went into attack mode. Caleb and Cody Martin were able to penetrate the Arizona State defense time after time on isolation moves. While the 48 second half points seems impressive it was defense and old fashioned Nevada grit that kept the Wolf Pack from suffering their first loss of the season.
In what may be the defining sequence of plays for Nevada it was Trey Porter time. Porter had just score a bucket and was trying to show a referee how he had been fouled, but the plea fell on deaf ears and play had not stopped. Porter lagging behind the play used his long stride to effortlessly eat up 80 feet of hardwood and get back into position in time to make a key block, come down with the ball and throw an outlet pass to Cody. At the other end Cody finished at the rim and converted a free throw.
We learned just how formidable Nevada really is, not because they used their maturity to come back from a double digit deficit, but the way they accomplished it. This Nevada squad is so much different than last years team despite the return of Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins, last year’s squad was a finesse team this year’s team is a physical team that understands how defense can win games. It was the 3rd consecutive game where Nevada’s once suspect defense has excelled and been the key to victory.
Charlie Tooley has left Nevada but it was his shot at the Pit a couple years ago that laid the foundation for the Wolf Packs belief that no deficit is to big to overcome. There was no panic from Nevada, simply another chance to prove that there is no more dangerous animal than a Wolf being 15 points down. Come March this game will be reduced to numbers, for the fans that watched last night it was just plain fun to watch.