LAS VEGAS — Nevada basketball coach Eric Musselman admitted he was concerned about an emotional letdown following Wednesday’s big win over Boise State.
It turns out he worried about nothing.
Jordan Caroline (31 points) and Marcus Marshall (28 points) outscored the entire UNLV team Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in leading the Pack to a 94-58 win before an announced crowd of 14,808
The easy win gave Nevada a sweep of the season series, and enabled the Pack (23-6, 12-4) to hold onto the top spot in the Mountain West. The 36-point thumping was the largest in series history, surpassing the 27-point thrashing at Lawlor earlier this year.
“I’m proud of the effort, energy and enthusiasm we had,” Musselman said. “When we got on the plane (Friday), everybody was focused. We went twice (Friday). We practiced in Reno and then came back at night. Normally we just shoot around in the opponent’s gym, but we actually walked through some stuff. We were ready to play, and it was a great win down the stretch.
“We got some good play from our bench, and obviously Jordan and Marcus were absolutely phenomenal. Jordan was phenomenal on the glass.”
And, after being upset by last-place Utah State earlier this season, the Pack has used that as motivation.
“We’ve come off big wins (New Mexico) and then let our fans down (and ourselves),” Caroline said. “We came ready to play.”
The game showed just how explosive Nevada can be, but it also showed just how much UNLV has fallen. It is rare an entire college basketball team is outscored by two opposing players, but UNLV has stumbled the entire season (3-13, 10-19) under first-year coach Marvin Menzies.
Marshall, who went through a slump recently, has been dialed in the last three games.
The senior transfer went 10-for-16 from the floor, including 8-for-10 on 3-pointers. The eight 3-pointers was a career best and one shy of the school record. He has 103 3-pointers which eclipsed the mark of 95 set by Jimmy Carroll back in the 1996-97 season. He also became the third player in Mountain West history to have 100 3-pointers. The last was BYU’s Jimmer Fredette in 2010.
“I’m just trying to shoot with confidence,” the soft-spoken Marshall said. “It’s a credit to my coaches and teammates for putting me in the right positions.”
“I’m not surprised,” Caroline said. “I saw him do it all last year (in practice). I’m surprised it took him this long (to get 100).”
Marshall has turned out to be everything Musselman expected when he brought him on campus.
“He went through a little bit of a period where teams were focused on him, and it opened up other guys,” Musselman said. “He and Jordan were outstanding today, and Jordan was great on the glass.
“When you have a sit one, play one kind of guy you expect him to be an impact player. He’s been phenomenal. I don’t know that we envisioned him being the best 3-point shooter (in school history), but numbers don’t lie.”
While Marshall scored throughout, it was Caroline who got the Pack off to a sensational start. He opened with a 3-pointer and scored 12 of Nevada’s first 21 points.
“I was feeling pretty good,” Caroline said. “I was in the right spots at the right time.”
“He had fresh legs,” Musselman said. “He’s been sitting out practices because of his back. He sits and watches what we’re doing.”
The Rebels cut Nevada’s lead to 27-21 on baskets by Tyrell Green and Cheickna Dembele plus a 3 by Jovan Mooring, who ended the half with nine, all on 3-pointers.
Nevada went on a 14-5 run to build the lead to 42-26, as Marshall had eight points on two more 3s and a bucket. Caroline added a driving lay-up and another 3-pointer.
Musselman, who was pleased with his defense much of the night, wasn’t happy the way the Pack started the second half, as UNLV cut the lead to 55-44.
“Defensively, I thought we played phenomenal,” Musselman said. “We traded baskets for about the first four minutes, and I was a little disappointed with that.”
Musselman, though, said he was pleased with the way his team talked; communicated with each other defensively. In that area, he thought the Pack did the best its done all season.
The Pack put together a 14-2 run to extend its lead to 70-46 with 12:14 left in the contest.
Oliver started the surge with a dunk, and after a UNLV miss, Josh Hall converted a three-point play to make it 60-44. Marshall contributed another three, Hall added a lay-up, Caroline had a three-point play and Oliver completed the surge with a lay-up.
When UNLV cut the lead to 70-50, Nevada roared back with a 20-2 run to make it 90-52, and many fans started to leave the building at that point.