The Nevada Wolf Pack lost a free throw shooting contest Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
“We cannot continue to put guys on the foul line,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said after a 74-67 loss to the Boise State Broncos in front of a home crowd of 7,564. “We’re putting two many guys on the foul line on a nightly basis.”
Boise State, which has now won 10 games in a row to improve to 13-4 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain West, was 26-of-36 from the free throw line. The Pack, now 10-7, 2-3, was just 10-of-15 from the line. The 16-point difference on free throws is the second largest the Pack has faced this season. Wichita State outscored the Pack 44-21 from the line on Dec. 22.
“We had 26 field goals and they had 22,” Musselman said. “So that (free throws) was the whole difference in the game.”
Neither team shot well from the field or on 3-pointers. Boise was at 41 percent from the field and 25 percent (4-of-16) on threes while the Pack was at 40 percent overall and 25 percent (5-of-20) on threes.
“We’re poor shooters and that continues to haunt us,” Musselman said.
The Wolf Pack fell behind by 14 (61-47) with four minutes to play before making one last push. The Pack went on a 13-2 run to cut Boise’s lead to just 63-60 with 1:12 to play. Marqueze Coleman scored nine of the 13 points during the run on a 3-pointer, two layups and a short jumper. A steal and a layup by D.J. Fenner after Coleman missed a 3-pointer cut Boise’s lead to 63-60.
“There is progress,” Musselman said. “But it didn’t show up in the win column.”
Boise’s Nick Duncan drained a wide open 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Broncos a 66-60 lead with 1:05 to go.
“That’s what Boise does to you,” Fenner said. “They make you pay on defense. You miss an assignment and they kick it out to Duncan for a wide open three. And that’s the game.”
The Broncos, who have now won five of their last six games against the Wolf Pack, were 8-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 46 seconds to secure the victory.
“They are one of the most veteran teams in the conference,” Musselman said. “And they are the hardest team to defend in the league.”
The Wolf Pack, though, did a solid job on Boise’s James Webb III, holding him to 14 points. Webb came into the game with a 16.6 scoring average and had averaged 24 points a game over his last five games. The 6-foot-9 junior was just 5-of-8 from the floor, though he did pull down a game-high 14 rebounds.
“He’s good,” said Fenner, who covered him most of the game. “He found a way to get his points. But I think overall we did a pretty good job on him.”
“Defensively I think we did a real good job,” said Coleman, who finished with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. “We were engaged on defense. But we just have to score the basketball.”
The Pack fell behind 35-24 by halftime, shooting just 33 percent (10-of-30) from the floor in the first half. “We struggled to score the ball early,” Musselman said. “But we scored 43 points in the second half. It’s very difficult to score 43 points in a half against a veteran team like that. But we need to get better. We’re going to keep working, shoot 100 threes a day and try to do everything we can to improve our shooting.”
The Wolf Pack scored the first eight points of the second half as Cameron Oliver hit a short jumper and had two dunks. Oliver, who finished with six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes, had no points and just one rebound in eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. The 6-foot-8 freshman eventually fouled out with 4:35 to play and the Pack trailing 60-47.
“Cam Oliver needs to rebound more,” Musselman said. “D.J. Fenner needs to rebound more.”
“I have to learn how to play with fouls,” Oliver said. “It’s hard to do and stay aggressive. I’m a freshman. It’s a lot to go through. There’s just a lot of frustration right now.”
Despite Oliver and Fenner combining for just six rebounds, Boise State had just a 42-38 edge on the boards and outscored the Pack just 34-32 in the paint.
Fenner finished with just two rebounds in 36 minutes. The Pack junior outscored Webb 15-14 but lost the rebounding battle 14-2. Webb entered the game as the second leading rebounder in the Mountain West at 8.4 a game.
“I don’t think guarding him affected my rebounding,” Fenner said. “I tried to box him out every time. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t come in my area. And it’s more difficult when there are five guards out there. But at the same time that’s no excuse. I have to rebound better.”
“With that lineup (the Pack frequently played five guards with Oliver struggling with foul trouble) we all have to rebound better,” Fenner said.
Musselman wasn’t happy with his basketball team after the loss.
“What’s my feelings?” Musselman said. “I want to win every game. That’s my feelings.”
The loss was the first for the Wolf Pack at Lawlor Events Center this season after six victories.
“That has nothing to do with how we feel,” Musselman said.
The officials called 25 fouls on the Wolf Pack and 16 on Boise State. Coming into the game the Pack had been whistled for just four more fouls than its opposition this season.
“The fans, the media, the officials, we have to earn their respect on a nightly basis,” Musselman said.
“They (the officials) are starting to respect us,” Fenner said. “Tonight they weren’t too bad. They did a good job.That’s not something we can complain about after this game. We lost the game. That’s it.”
The Wolf Pack, which gets a week off before it must play at Wyoming next Wednesday, has now lost four of its last six games.
“We don’t like losing,” Coleman said. “Nobody in that locker room likes losing. We just hate the feeling. But we’re not going to hang our heads. It’s a long season.”
The Wolf Pack will return to Lawlor Events Center to face UNLV on Jan. 23 and San Diego State on Jan. 26.
“We have a long, tough road,” Musselman said. “And it does not get any easier.”