When Eric Musselman brought Jordan Caroline into the Wolf Pack family, he envisioned a physical player; a guy to do the blue-collar work underneath.
And, after a so-so exhibition performance against SF State, Caroline showed his toughness in Friday’s 81-63 loss to 17th-ranked Saint Mary’s.
Caroline, who figures to start Monday at home against Loyola Marymount, scored nine points and pulled down eight rebounds, three offensive.
Six of his points came in the first half which helped the Pack stay close for a while. His eight boards doubled that of Cameron Oliver and Elijah Foster.
“Being ready to play,” said Caroline when asked what he learned from the exhibition game to the opener. “Try to slow things down.”
“He plays hard,” Oliver said. “He was on the boards. He did the dirty work for us.”
Caroline would have scored in double figures, but he was a brutal 5-for-12 from the free-throw line. One thing is certain, if you’re going to be a beast on the boards, you’re going to get fouled and you need to knock down the free tosses.
WHERE IS THE DEFENSE?
Musselman ranted about his team’s interior defense and with good reason. The Gaels outscored Nevada 56-20 in the paint and won the rebound battle, 32-23.
“We definitely can’t let that happen again,” Caroline said.
If that starts happening against Loyola Marymount on Monday, and the Lions have a few big bodies, some of Nevada’s big bodies will be getting some serious pine time next to Musselman.
Nevada plays in some tough arenas in conference play, The Pit at New Mexico and San Diego State, come immediately to mind.
McKeon Pavilion, with its 3,500 seats, is nowhere near the size of those two, but it might be just as tough on opposing teams. SMC has won 72 of its last 78 nonconference games.
“It reminded me of high school,” Caroline said. “The crowd is right on top of you.”
“It was loud out there; that was crazy,” said first-game hero Jock Landale, who scored a career-best 33 points in his first-ever college start. “That was a great first-game crowd. We knew it was going to be crazy but to get out there and really hear how it is, that was awesome.”
Landale will probably continue to start at least a couple of more times as Dane Pineau recovers from back soreness. Either way, it looks like SMC is in good hands.
“He’ll be back in a week,” SMC coach Randy Bennett said after the contest. “Probably out of six weeks, he’s practiced two. He’s a little ways away with conditioning and stamina but he’s an all-conference player so we have to get him there.”
MORE FROM DREW
Nevada point guard Lindsey Drew played 31 minutes and dished out four assists, but didn’t take a shot.
What’s surprising is he didn’t seem to be looking to score. The Pack needs some offense from him if it’s going to be successful.
Loyola Marymount thrashed D-2 Sonoma State by 30 in an exhibition game, and then hammered Vanguard, 99-51, on Friday.
Mattias Markusson, a 7-foot-1 center, scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes on Friday, and Buay Tuach, a reserve last year, scored 12 points in 21 minutes. Sophomore Munis Tutu finished with 10 points. Brandon Brown, an honorable mention West Coast Conference selection, dished out 10 assists.
For the second straight game, Nevada faces a team heavy with players outside the United States.
Saint Mary’s had seven foreign players, all from Australia.
LMU has five players — Stefan Jovanovic (Kralijevo, Serbia), Tutu (Windsor, Canada), Petr Herman (Czech Republic), Markusson (Sweden) and Eric Johanson (Sweden).
Musselman told reporters he’s making progress in terms of recruiting players from outside the United States, but has yet to sign anybody.