CHICAGO — The maroon and gold Final Four banner hanging from the rafters gave Nevada just a little extra motivation. Not that the Wolf Pack really needed it.
Caleb Martin had 21 points, twin brother Cody Martin scored 20 and No. 5 Nevada beat Loyola-Chicago 79-65 on Tuesday night in their NCAA Tournament rematch.
Loyola edged Nevada by one point in the South Regional semifinals last season — the only other meeting between these programs. That victory came during a stunning Final Four run for the Ramblers.
“There was a lot of motivation,” Caleb Martin said. “We thought that it could’ve been us. They had a lot of momentum behind them last year and they played really well and they had guys step up for them even though they were a young group of guys. ... We just had to tip our hats and keep it moving.”
Nevada players saw the banner during shootaround. And an image was left showing it on a projector while they got dressed before the game.
Caleb Martin then scored 17 in the first half, helping the Wolf Pack (7-0) grab a 44-28 lead. The preseason All-American shot 8 of 13 in the game, including 3 for 6 on 3-pointers.
Cody Martin was 9 of 14 with seven assists.
Jordan Caroline, playing in his home state, had 15 points and six rebounds. Trey Porter added 14 points and 10 boards.
“There’s a lot of veterans on that team,” said Loyola’s Marques Townes, who hit the decisive 3 in the closing seconds of the NCAA game against Nevada. “They got a couple of transfers and the majority of the starting lineup back. They played like men today. I feel like they out-physicalled us today and we didn’t respond.”
Townes led Loyola (4-3) with a season-high 24 points and nine rebounds, but the Ramblers dropped their second straight game.
Loyola great Jerry Harkness presented a Final Four ring to Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt — the now 99-year-old nun and team chaplain who charmed the nation during last season’s run — prior to the game. But with a raucous crowd packing the arena, Nevada did its best to put this one away in the early going.
Led by the Martins, the Wolf Pack shot 62.5 percent while building their 44-28 halftime lead.
They led 29-9 midway through the first half after a layup by Cody Martin. He also hit a 3 with 5:22 left to make it 38-18 before Loyola cut it to 12 in the closing minutes. The Ramblers’ Clayton Custer missed a 3 that would have made it a nine-point game. Caleb Martin hit a runner and Porter scored on a layup to get it back up to 16 with 14 seconds left in the half.
Nevada: With its strength, length and quickness, Nevada dominated inside and on the perimeter, particularly in the early going. That led to another convincing victory for the Wolf Pack, who have won each game by at least 10 points.
Loyola: Though they have three starters back, the Ramblers are already halfway to last season’s loss total.
Loyola coach Porter Moser said guard Lucas Williamson had a swollen hand X-rayed. A sophomore who came in averaging 10.3 points per game, he missed all four shots and did not score.
“For all of us, it stung last year but we were rooting for Loyola after they beat us and wanted them to win the whole thing.” — Nevada coach Eric Musselman.
“I think it’s about getting better. I keep thinking about Coach Majerus. There were so many games where Coach Majerus talked about how you want to move your team along to get to where you need your team to be in January and February. Coach didn’t put so much into these early games. ... We just saw where we want to go.” — Moser, an assistant on Rick Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis before taking the Loyola job in 2011.
Nevada: Visits USC on Saturday.
Loyola: Visits UIC on Saturday.