RENO — To say that Nevada sophomore Cameron Oliver looks forward to playing Oregon State is an understatement.
Oliver originally signed with the Beavers out of Grant High School in Sacramento, but never attended OSU after Craig Robinson, the coach who recruited him, was fired back in 2014.
Oliver hit eight of his first 10 field goal attempts en route to a season-high 24 points to lead the Pack to a surprisingly easy 83-58 win before a crowd of 8,090 Friday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The Pack won’t have much time to savor the win, as the Iona Gaels come to Reno on Sunday for a 5 p.m. game as part of the Great Alaska Shootout.
“It’s Oregon State, I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder,” Oliver admitted after the game. “I don’t want to say anything about it. It’s college basketball. There are things that are personal to me that I don’t share with the team.”
“Cameron is so talented,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “I think he was focused and took good shots tonight, and then he got into a rhythm, and they had no answer for him. He had an unbelievably awesome game offensively tonight.”
The victory gave Nevada its first win over a Power 5 school since defeating Washington 76-73 on Dec. 8, 2012, and the 25 point win gave Nevada its biggest win over a Power 5 school since defeating the Oregon State Beavers by 28, 75-47, on Nov. 15, 2006.
“I thought our intensity from the opening tip was really, really good,” Musselman said. “That is two games in a row where we’ve come out of the gate really fast. Our starters did a good job setting the tone.”
Especially Jordan Caroline and Oliver. Caroline had two offensive rebounds on the opening possession leading to two free throws, and Oliver drained two baseline jumpers and added a ferocious slam dunk to give Nevada an early 8-4 lead.
The Beavers cut the deficit to 15-10 after a slam and putback by reserve center Gligorije Rakocevic, who had 12 points and seven rebounds in 17 effective minutes. He gave Nevada defenders more trouble than the more-heralded Tres Tinkle and front-court companion Drew Eubanks.
Nevada, thanks to Oliver and D.J. Fenner, roared back with a 13-2 run, extending its lead to 34-15 with 5:49 left in the half. Oliver drained two 3-pointers and had another flush. Fenner, who came off the bench for the second straight game, had the other seven points. Fenner finished with 17 in his 33-minute stint. A half-ending 8-2 run keyed by 3-pointers by Fenner and Marcus Marshall plus a bucket by Oliver sent the Pack into the locker room with a 48-25 advantage.
Oliver’s 20 points in the first half is a career high in first half scoring for the sophomore. Fenner had 15 of his 17 in the opening half.
“D.J. did a great job off the bench,” Musselman said. “Sometimes players don’t understand … I like having firepower off the bench. He probably played as many minutes as he would if he started.”
Fenner seemed uncomfortable when asked about coming off the bench. He started 36 of 38 games a year ago.
“I’ll do what it takes to help the team,” said the Nevada senior. “I just do my job.”
The Beavers managed a 5-0 run early in the second half to make it 53-32, but a 3-pointer by Marshall (11 points), back-to-back buckets by Caroline (12 points, 12 rebounds) and two free throws by Fenner boosted the lead to 61-32 with 14:55 remaining.
Nevada attained its biggest lead, 66-34, with 12:40 left on a three-point play by Oliver which capped his outstanding night.
Another key to the lopsided win was rebounding, especially at the offensive end. Nevada had 14 offensive rebounds leading to 12 points and won the rebounding battle, 37-32. Caroline had 12 boards and Oliver had seven.
The Pack also forced 20 turnovers leading to 27 points.
“I was happy with our rebounding,” Musselman said. “I thought we did a good job for the most part forcing turnovers. From a defensive standpoint we took them out of the 3 ball. The players did a phenomenal job of understanding the scouting report and understanding who we could help off.”
The Beavers’ top two scorers — Tinkle and Eubanks — weren’t factors. Eubanks was held to eight points and eight rebounds, far under his totals of 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Tinkle finished with 16 points and a measly three rebounds. He came in averaging 18.3 and 11.7, respectively.
Twelve of Tinkle’s points came in the second half when the game was well in hand. Musselman was pleased with work of his interior players on the two Beaver big men.
“We’re young,” Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle told the Associated Press. “We have to understand our scouting report and execution. Those are things we got to get better at. We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t played any college basketball. We have one senior. But that’s really no excuse.”