Nevada Rallies In Second Half Once Again
It was supposed to be a high scoring affair, two teams known for their offense squaring off, a first team to 90 wins type of game. That was not how this one played out in the least. The Jackrabbits from South Dakota State played a sagging man to man defense most of the night, daring Nevada to shoot from outside.
For the first few minutes of the game last night it looked like the Wolf Pack was going to make SDSU pay dearly, hitting 4-6 from behind the arc to open the game.
Early success from three was short lived as the absence of Jazz Johnson, out due to a concussion, showed how critical he is to this teams success going forward. Caleb Martin continues to struggle from distance going 4-14 from behind the arc. The team as a whole finished a Savannah State like 10-39 from deep. The 39 attempts from 3 point land was a Nevada school record.
In the first half Nevada acted as if the paint in the lane was still wet as they avoided it by taking. 22-28 first half shots safely behind the arc. Maybe the wet paint in the lane was only at one end of the court as Nevada attacked the rim much more and racked up fouls on the Jackrabbits in doing so.
It was Trey Porter on the defensive end that earned postgame praise from Coach Eric Musselman sayin “That’s the best defensive performance on one guy by one individual since I’ve been coaching here.” Musselman went on the say “I think (Porter) is one of the best defenders in the entire country, if not the best interior defender in the entire country.
It has been Nevada’s defensive philosophy since Musselman’s arrival to focus on their opponents main offensive weapons and make the other players beat them. The plan against the Jackrabbits almost worked to perfection for both teams. The Wolf Pack held Daum and high scoring guard David Jenkins to 10 points, that’s not 10 points each, that’s combined.
With Daum and Jenkins held to almost 40 points below their combined scoring average one would think that it should have been easy sailing for Nevada. That wasn’t the case though, as the Jackrabbit bench outscored Nevada’s 28-2 and Skyler Flatten dropped 20 on 6-12 shooting including 4-8 from deep. In a game of runs the Jackrabbits came up 1 run short of upsetting a ranked Nevada squad.
Nevada was led by Jordan Caroline who went for 21 points and 9 boards narrowly missing yet another double double. Caroline was the only Nevada player to shoot well from distance going 3-6, but it was a couple of thunderous dunks that threatened to take down rim and backboard that epitomized Carolines play.
Caleb finished with 20 points and continues to be high usage despite his shooting slump going 6-19 from the floor for the night.
Just how good is Nevada’s defense? Last night marked the 4th consecutive game that Nevada has held it’s opponent to a season low in points scored. The defensive improvement the Wolf Pack has shown as the season has progressed has been impressive. The way they shut down Daum and Jenkins is astonishing and nothing short of eye opening.
While not pretty on the offensive end of the court Nevada escaped with a win moving to 12-0 and is 1 of only 9 remaining undefeated D1 teams left. Premature talk about an undefeated season has been cropping up in the media and last nights game was indicative of just how difficult a task that would be. Few teams win when they shoot 34% from the field as the Wolf Pack did last night. Had the defense not played superbly last night Nevada would already have a blemish on their record.
Of note is the fact that SDSU scored 0 points on fast breaks and only had 3 second chance points . Transition defense had been a concern early in the season but has been much better of late. The free throw line continues to be Nevada’s favorite place as Nevada once again made more FT’s than their opponent took and provided the winning edge.