RENO – When you are shooting 3s with great success, the first inclination is to settle for the long ball.
Nevada did that, and found itself with a threadbare 31-29 lead after the first 20 minutes Tuesday night against undefeated Davidson.
The Pack decided to take the ball to the basket in the second half, and the change in strategy led to an 81-68 win before a crowd of 8,225 at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 5-0, and heads to Hawaii today for a Friday game against the Rainbow Warriors. Nevada is 5-0 for the first time since 2006-07 when the team started 7-0.
“It’s a great feeling,” said sophomore Josh Hall, who finished with 17 points. “Our goal was to win every non-conference game. We have beat two pretty good teams from the A-10.”
Nevada did hit some 3s in the final 20 minutes (5-for-9), but it was 12-for-16 on 2-pointers, as Davidson was helpless to stop the Pack at the rim.
“We settled way too much in the first half,” Musselman said. “I thought we were more selective in the second half.”
“Our focus was to take it to the basket,” Caleb Martin said. “We were settling too much, and our shot selection wasn’t too good, including me. When you hit 17 3s, you can get complacent. We’re a really good dribble-drive team.”
Added Cody Martin, “Our game plan was getting to the rack. They were last in shot blocking, so we wanted to attack the rim and try to get fouls.”
Caleb Martin, who scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, demonstrated the change in strategy when he converted a three-point play off a hard drive down the baseline and scored over Oskar Michelsen on the first possession of the second half.
That score ignited a 10-5 run, as Nevada grabbed a 42-35 lead with 17:38 left in the game. Jordan Caroline scored on a layup as did Caleb Martin, who also knocked down two free throws in the surge.
Nevada maintained the five-point bulge over the next 3-plus minutes before putting together an 11-2 surge, stretching its lead to 60-45 with 11:22 left in the contest.
Caroline (16 points) dropped in a 3-pointer and then scored on a drive to the basket in a span of 40 seconds. Lindsey Drew (8 points) put back his own miss to make it 55-43.
Peyton Aldridge ended the 6-0 run with a basket, but Caleb Martin scored five straight points to complete the surge.
Nevada did get the lead to 18 with 5:04 on a Caroline free throw and a jump shot by Cody Martin (12 points). Davidson closed to 11, 73-62, on a reverse lay-up by Kellan Grady, a 3-pointer by Jordan Watkins and two free throws by Aldridge after Caroline was called for a flagrant foul. Davidson had the potential for an eight-point possession, but turned the ball over.
The first half was anything but the shootout that was expected, and that can be attributed sub-par shooting.
Davidson shot 35 percent compared to 45 percent for the Pack.
After jumping to a 9-0 lead in the first 2-plus minutes on two buckets by Cody Martin, a 3-pointer by Caleb Martin and a bucket by Caroline, the game turned into a defensive struggle. The score was tied three times and the lead changed eight times.
The game was tied at 20, 27 and 29 before Caleb Martin’s layup gave Nevada 31-29 advantage at the half.
Davidson didn’t score a point in the last 3-minutes 10-seconds of the half, going 0-for-3 with a turnover in that span.
A bright spot for Nevada in the opening half was Hall, who continued his torrid 3-point shooting. He went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc en route to a 9-point effort in the first 20 minutes.
“Pretty high,” Hall said when asked about his confidence level. “I don’t want to come in and force (things). I take the shots when I get them. My teammates tell me to make sure I’m taking the right shots.”
Hall ended the game with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. He has 12 3-pointers in the last two games.
Hall had 3-pointers that gave Nevada leads of 15 (63-48) and 17 (70-53) in the second half. His final second-half 3-pointer put Nevada over the 80-point mark for the fifth straight game.