RENO – Nevada players went through a different day-after-game routine on Saturday.
Instead of reviewing film from Friday’s 83-58 thumping of Pac-12 member Oregon State, the Wolf Pack players and coaching staff turned their attention to the Iona Gaels, who invade Lawlor Events Center today at 5 p.m. in a first-round game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
“We aren’t going to watch film and see what areas we need to clean up,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We are going to get right into Iona.
“Iona is a big one (game). I thought our crowd was phenomenal. Iona is a game I hope we draw because it’s Sunday at 5, and it’s the last (home) game before we leave for Alaska. Our student section has been awesome. They have done a really, really god job of providing energy for us. Our guys feel the energy and feed off it.”
The Pack is 18-3 at Lawlor under Musselman, the fiery high-energy head coach. He has brought excitement to the city and made basketball relevant again after a few years of mediocrity.
Earlier in the week, Musselman described Iona as unique at the offensive end, and he elaborated after Friday’s 25-point whipping of Oregon State. Iona is coming off a road loss at Florida State.
“They have been in the tournament a lot; were in the tournament last year,” Musselman said. “Iona has played just one game, so they are coming in with fresh legs. They have had a lot of time to prep for us. Our guys need to get some rest tonight (Friday) and Saturday.
“They play at a really fast pace and shoot a lot of 3s. They dribble drive you (and kick the ball out). It’s not like we’re going to have to walk through a sophisticated offense. Everybody has to guard individually (and not help out).”
That’s sometimes easier said than done. On the basketball court, the natural inclination is to help a teammate. Nevada has to defend the 3 and defend it hard, especially with Sam Casell Jr., who had 28 points in the season-opening loss to Florida State.
Under coach Tim Cluess, who’s starting his sixth year at the helm, the Gaels have been one of the top scoring teams in the nation year in and year out. The Gaels finished 13th in 2010-11, first in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, fourth in 2013-14 and fifth in 2014-15.
In addition to being the 2011-12 and 2012-13 NCAA scoring champions, the Gaels were NCAA statistical champs in total 3-point field goals made in 2014-15 (344), 3-point field goals per game (10.2/g) in 2013-14 and assists per game (19.3/g) in 2011-12.
It’s only been three games, but the Pack played better against Loyola than it did against Saint Mary’s, and it played better against Oregon State than it did Loyola Marymount.
Musselman said he was happy with his team’s progress. He admitted the team is still trying to come together and figure out roles.
“We had a great week of practice,” said senior D.J. Fenner. “Guys are staying after practice, and then coming back later that night.”
It’s only been three games, but Jordan Caroline, who sat out after transferring last year, is winning a lot of the fans over with his hard-nosed play.
Caroline is averaging nearly 10 points and nine rebounds a game. He’s a beast, especially on the offensive glass. He had six offensive rebounds. He thrives in his blue-collar mentality.
“He rebounds like a mad man, and he’s getting to the free-throw line,” said Fenner.