Nevada’s Defense Leads To Victory
Nevada opened up the game the same way they have at recent, settling for 3’s and falling behind. Akron opened up an early 9-3 lead that they held until the 15-minute mark. Eric Musselman then inserted Jazz Johnson and Freshman Jordan Brown into the lineup hoping to provide some offensive spark. Once again it was Nevada’s defense keeping them in the game early along with Cody Martin being able to penetrate the Zips backline defense.
After starting 0-11 from behind the arc Caleb Martin hit back to back from 3 after the Zips had opened up a 9 point lead. A Caroline 3 along with a dunk and Nevada had an 11-0 run to take the lead. Following his breakaway dunk Caroline was T’d up for jawing with the Zips bench, unfortunately, it only served to fire him up even more. Behind Carolines 11 first-half points Nevada went into the locker room at halftime with a lead for the first time in 5 games, 28-25.
Despite shooting only 27% from the field in the first half the Zips were able to keep it close by getting 8 offensive rebounds in the first half. The undersized Akron team was able to outrebound Nevada in the first half 21-18.
Akron was able to keep the game close despite numerous turnovers and poor shooting, a true testament to their scrappy style of play. At just under the 12 minute mark Johnson faked a 3 from the left corner, put the ball on the floor and then kicked it out to the opposite side of the court, and then in a flash with 3 or 4 crisp passes around the perimeter the ball is back in Johnson’s hands and he calmly lofted a 3 that found the bottom of the net. For a split moment, it looked like Nevada’s offense from last year.
The Zips fought to the end in what may have been Nevada’s toughest game to date. Caleb continued his poor shooting from deep, but with 46 seconds on the clock and the score 60-57 he shoots a 3 that was the dagger. Caleb is a stone-cold assassin when the stakes are the highest. A final score of 68-62 sent Nevada into the Christmas break still undefeated at 12-0.
A Heart To Heart With Nevada Fans
I had the intention of using this forum to take Musselman to task over his thin skin about fans on twitter second-guessing him about rotations and who should be getting minutes. After all, it goes with the territory, fans always second guess coaches, especially when things go wrong. Nevada is 12-0 and ranked 6th in the country and as Musselman said in a pregame interview “It’s all about winning.”
It is time for Nevada fans to readjust how the view this squad. Sure last years team was more fun to watch on offense than this year’s team over the last stretch of games, but I love watching Nevada play defense this year.
When you get a 5 second call on an inbounds pass, a shot clock violation that is playing team defense at the highest level. The sign of a good, maybe even a great team is the ability to find a way to win when the offense is sputtering. Nevada has done that over the last several games and I take that to be a positive.
Nevada has lots of talent, coming into the game Caroline led the team in rebounds, Caleb in points, Cody in assists, Thurman in steals, Porter in blocks and Johnson in 3 point shooting percentage. So for those that are clamoring for Brown to get more minutes, it becomes a question of who do you take those minutes away from. Brown, once again in limited minutes played well and having Porter or Brown playing perimeter defense is fun to watch as they utilize sound defensive footwork and keep a hand up. Remember that Coach Musselman is all about winning and putting his team in the best position to win each individual game.
Nevada fans, learn to enjoy the beauty of defense, the altered shot as much as the blocked shot, the deflection as much as the steal, because that is Nevada basketball 2018-19 style. When the only people worried about our offense is the fans I tend to side with the insiders. Nevada will have some great offensive games this year, but as every Mountain West team has Nevada circled on their calendars it is not unreasonable to expect to see a number of games won by Nevada’s defense.