RENO — Protect the home court. Eric Musselman stressed that from the first day he took over the Nevada basketball program.
And, the Nevada Wolf Pack has done an exceptional job of accomplishing that.
Entering Wednesday’s home game against Fresno State (8 p.m., CBS Sports Network), the Pack (18-4, 7-1) has won 15 straight at Lawlor Events Center spanning the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Included in that win total is nine straight wins against Mountain West opponents.
“When we got the job we talked about the importance of winning at home,” Musselman said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s pretty hard to play perfect at home for a whole season. We go game by game and see what happens.”
The last team to beat Nevada at Lawlor? Yeah, you guessed it, Fresno State, 81-76, on Jan. 21, 2017. Nevada, 20-3 after losses under Musselman, beat the Bulldogs by 15 points earlier this year in Fresno.
“It (that loss) wasn’t a good feeling,” junior guard Lindsey Drew said Tuesday before practice. “It was tough. It wasn’t a good feeling. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
“It (this year’s road win) was a good win. We had lost back-to-back games (Texas Tech and TCU), and we came out with a lot of fire. You can’t expect to lose two in a row. It’s not something that happens at Nevada, and coach Muss makes sure to let us know. It’s not acceptable.”
Jordan Caroline didn’t pull any punches.
“They punked us last year,” he said. “We didn’t come out ready to play.”
The Pack is trying to wipe out the 104-103 double-overtime road loss to Wyoming, its first loss in MW play. Musselman & Co. know it won’t be an easy task.
“We went really hard for a couple of days (twice on Saturday); maybe harder than we ever have since I’ve been here,” Musselman said. “We tried to back off slightly as we get closer to game time.
“I hope they have long-term memory after a loss. We talked about it every day. I haven’t had a good meal since we lost in Laramie. Hopefully we’ll get a sweeter taste in our mouths (Wednesday night) and get rid of the bitter taste.”
The Fresno State-Nevada rivalry is a good one. Both teams are tough-minded and gritty, just like their coaches. The games are usually physical and hard fought.
“Fresno State obviously is a really talented team,” Musselman said. “Their guards are phenomenal, both Taylors and (Deshon and Jahmel), and (Jaron) Hopkins. Bryson Williams can score from the outside and with his back to the basket. (Terrell) Carter is a real wide body and (Nate) Grimes is coming on.
“They are a really well-coached team. They really compete and they are a tough-minded group that believes they can win on the road. They come ready to play.”
And, Caroline and Drew are expecting nothing less.
“Definitely expect a tough one,” Caroline said. “Every year we have played them (it’s been tough). I don’t expect anything less than that. Both teams are tough grind-it-out teams.”
“They are a team that plays really hard; gritty,” Drew said. “In my years here we have formed a rivalry. They are a team that really wants to beat us. The coaches have butted heads at times.”