Cameron Oliver had one of those weeks every player dreams about.
After starting with a 14-point effort against Loyola Marymount last Monday, Oliver tallied a career-high 24 in a 25-point win over Oregon State and then capped the week with a 22-point effort in a 15-point win over Iona Sunday.
The scoring barrage earned Oliver the Mountain West Player of the Week by College Sports Madness.
Oliver, who shot 67 percent from the field in helping Nevada win all three home games, leads the Pack against Oakland Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. in a second-round game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
Nevada led from wire to wire in the wins over Loyola Marymount, but had to rebound from a 10-point halftime deficit to knock off Iona, 91-76, before a crowd of 6,375 Sunday at Lawlor Events Center.
The Pack, which shot 50 percent of the game, shot 61.5 in the second half to wipe out Iona’s 44-34 halftime advantage. Nevada also outrebounded Iona, 23-15, in the second half.
It was Nevada’s best second half of this young season, and maybe the best since coach Eric Musselman took over. Nevada has outscored the opposition by 31 points in the last three games.
“We have always been a good second-half team in the last year and a half,” Musselman said. “I thought defensively we picked it up. We did a good job on points in the paint. We didn’t settle. I thought we had good looks from the 3-point line throughout the game; didn’t force any.
“I thought Lindsey Drew’s defense on Sam Cassell Jr. was really, really good, and Lindsey did an unbelievable job rebounding the ball.“
Cassell Jr, who went for 28 in a season-opening loss to Florida State, went 1-for-12 from the field and finished with 4 points. Drew, meanwhile, had a quiet 11-points and 9-rebound game.
Musselman still couldn’t explain a poor first half other than to say his team was sluggish. Iona, thanks to an effective zone defense, built a 10-point lead at the half, 44-34, turning six Nevada mistakes into 14 points.
Whatever Musselman said to his team in the locker room worked. Nevada was an entirely different team on both sides of the floor. Inside and outside, Nevada had no trouble solving Iona’s defense. Whatever Iona coach Tim Cluess tried, Nevada countered successfully.
The Pack opened the second half with a 26-6 run over the first 7 1Ž2 minutes to take a 56-50 lead with 12:24 left. Included in that surge was an 11-0 run.
Jordan Caroline (15 points, 13 rebounds) started the surge with a free throw to make it 50-46. After Dayshonee Much misfired, Marcus Marshall (20 points, 18 in second half) was fouled and drained two free throws to make it 50-48 with 13:48 left.
Iona missed a shot and then turned the ball over, and each time Marshall made the Gaels pay with a 3-pointer. His second one gave Nevada a 54-50 lead. The Pack held the lead the remainder of the game.
“We ran a little more man-to-man offense in the second half,” Musselman said. “We were sharper and crisper in the second half. We did overload one side (a little bit). We ran some pick and roll.”
“They did a nice job of loading up one side Cluess said. “They did a much better job of getting the ball inside. If we shoot just OK we win, but we shot terrible. We were 1-for-11 on 3s the second half. We are not built that. They are a good team.”
Marshall has a score’s mentality, but he wasn’t aggressive enough in Musselman’s eyes.
“The zone didn’t bother us,” Marshall said. “I try to let the game come to me and not chase shots. I’m not a guy who always goes out there looking to get his (points). But I understand my role on this team. I need to make my shots.”
Nevada shot a solid 39 percent from 3-point range. Marshall and Cameron Oliver (22 points) knocked down three 3-pointers apiece.
The only downside was Nevada’s interior defense. Jordan Washington scored 29 points in just 22 minutes. He was saddled with foul problems much of the game yet he scored at will on the Pack big men when he was in there.
“The man’s a bull,” said Elijah Foster, who scored a career-best 21 and also pulled down 10 rebounds. “They feed it to him and he’s very efficient.”
According to Musselman, Washington led the entire nation in points per minutes played.