Nevada’s Defense Puts Up Crazy Numbers
Led by a dominating defense to open up Mountian West play, Nevada routed Utah State, 72-49. Let’s talk about a number, or maybe a couple of numbers: 65.6, that is the adjusted defense rating for the game according to T-rank.
For perspective, Texas Tech has the lowest season to date ADE of 85.2. 15 steals 5 blocks and a YMCA ball mentality to not allow anything at the rim, no matter what makes this a game to rewatch just for the fun factor.
There was a noticeable extra spring in the step of the Nevada players as they took the court to embark on the second segment of their season. The OOC portion was in the rearview mirror, it was conference time.
Nevada came out with a swagger and an intensity fans have been waiting to see again. The fans responded loudest not for great offensive plays but for what has become the trademark of the 2018-19 Wolf Pack, defense. I will fess up, I wrote earlier this year that the jury was still out as to whether or not Eric Musselman could coach great defense, the verdict is in, yes he can.
While Neemias Queta was impressive on the defensive end for the Aggies with five blocks it was a team approach to defense that Nevada employed. 6 different Nevada players came up with steals led by Tre’Shawn Thurman and Cody Martin with 4 each. It was a disruptive defense that led to live ball turnovers that allowed Nevada to play in transition outscoring the Aggies 19-3 on fastbreak points.
I can’t get away from numbers because some of them for this game are just crazy. After being manhandled by Nevada the Aggies are still number 50 in Kenpom’s rankings, Utah State was a borderline at-large team coming into this game. Nevada held the Aggies to 26.2% shooting from the floor and 17.4% from beyond the arc. Sam Merrill was held to 16 points on 6-14 shooting and only 1-5 from deep. In the postgame press conference Musselman expressed how unhappy he was that Merrill made a 3 because the big gave him to much space.
Attention to detail and always coaching every second of every game by Musselman has this Nevada squad playing hard every second of every game. The result is a team that is relentless on defense every single play. I doubt anyone predicted that Nevada would take on the personality of the Omaha transfer Thurman but it has. Earlier in the year at a press conference, Thurman talked about how 2 dogs go to a dog fight and the one that’s hungriest is the one that wins, Nevada is playing like a hungry dog.
Let’s put this game in perspective, Nevada beat a top 50 team by 23 while turning the ball over more than usual, 16 turnovers, shot 24% from 3 and only 39% from the field. Oh and Nevada’s leading scorer and preseason All-American fouled out, only played 21 minutes and was held to single digits for the first time all season finishing with 7 points. Of course, Jordan Caroline had another Caroline type game with 15 points and 12 rebounds and a season-high 7 assists.
Oh of the things that is getting overlooked is Nevada’s transition defense. In the season opener Nevada gave up 17 fast break points to BYU and in the next game, Pacific scored 10, in the last five games they have given up a total of 15 fastbreak points. Playing standout transition defense is a mindset, a commitment, a focus, and hustle. When Nevada plays with that mindset, with their across the board athleticism and length they are a very, very good team.
Next up for Nevada is a return to the Pit the site where the Nevada comeback legacy was spawned. New Mexico has been sort of an enigma this year, loaded with talent they have yet to mesh. No doubt the Lobos will have something to prove as they try to be the first to hand Nevada a loss.