100 points, 100 wins for Eric Musselman as No. 7 Nevada Wolf Pack pound Colorado State
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack has rediscovered its offense.
The No. 7 Wolf Pack buried the Colorado State Rams, 100-60, with one of its best offensive performances of the season Wednesday night in front of a crowd of 10,931 at Lawlor Events Center.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for an offensive explosion,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said. “When we play like that offensively we’re really good.”
The Wolf Pack, now 19-1 overall and in first place in the Mountain West at 6-1, turned in its first 100-point performance since a 110-87 victory over Massachusetts on Nov. 23 in Las Vegas. It’s also the Pack’s first 100-point game at Lawlor Events Center since a 102-92 victory over Fresno State last season on Jan. 31, 2018.
“It was on auto pilot,” said Musselman of the Pack’s offense. “I could have gone and sat up in the student section and had fun.”
It was a night of century mark milestones for the Pack. The victory is also Musselman’s 100th as Wolf Pack coach in just his 130th game.
“It was phenomenal,” said senior center Trey Porter, who scored 13 points as one of five Pack players who scored in double figures. “At one point it felt like we had 10 straight dunks. That got everybody going. It got the crowd going. It got the bench going. It was great.”
The Wolf Pack shot 56 percent from the floor (37-of-66) and 48 percent (13-of-27) on 3-pointers. It was its best shooting percentage from the floor since it shot 58 percent against Loyola Chicago on Nov. 27 and its best percentage on threes since it made 52 percent against Massachusetts.
“It just feels like we’ve needed something like this for a long time,” said senior Caleb Martin, who was 6-of-12 on threes to finish with 18 points. “We knew we had it in us.”
The Wolf Pack was hot all night long, shooting 57 percent (17-of-30) in the first half and 56 percent (20-of-36) in the second half. The Pack was also 6-of-12 on threes in the first half and 7-of-15 in the second half. The Pack’s 58 points in the second half is its second most in a half behind the 60 in the second half of a 92-53 win over San Jose State on Jan. 9.
“I just think the lid (on the basket) fell off tonight,” Musselman said.
It was just last Saturday, after a 67-52 victory over Air Force when the Pack was 5-of-27 on threes, that Musselman threatened to tell his team to shoot fewer 3-pointers. The Pack came into Wednesday’s game as the worst 3-point shooting team (.326) in the 11-team Mountain West.
“That’s the first time I’ve done that,” Musselman said. “I just wanted to get under their skin a little bit.”
It worked. In addition to Caleb Martin’s six 3-pointers, Jordan Caroline also had four on his way to a game-high 26 points. Tre’Shawn Thurman, Cody Martin and Jazz Johnson also had a 3-pointer.
“The guys were coming down the court, pointing their finger at me and laughing,” said Musselman with a smile.
The Wolf Pack never trailed the entire game and led by as much as 44 (99-55) in routing the Rams. The Pack, which led just 42-35 at halftime, took a 7-4 lead with 18:35 to go in the first half on a Caleb Martin 3-pointer and never looked back.
The Pack went on an early 7-0 run thanks to a Jazz Johnson jumper in the lane followed by a 3-pointer from the corner and a layup by Caroline to take its biggest lead of the half at 31-21 with 8:35 to go. Caroline, who led the Pack with 14 first-half points, also hit a short jumper in the lane over Rams’ 6-foot-11 center Nico Carvacho (11 points, 14 rebounds) for a 33-23 lead.
Colorado State, which has now lost seven of its last nine games and 11 of its last 14 to fall to 7-12, 2-4, went on a 9-0 run of its own to cut the Pack lead to just 33-32 late in the half. J.D. Paige connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the run to go along with a free throw from Carvacho and jumper from Anthony Masinton-Bonner.
Paige, who also had a 3-pointer with 6:48 to play, finished with a team-high 18 points. The 6-foot-3 senior had nine points in each half on three 3-pointers in each half.
The Wolf Pack, however, dominated the final three minutes of the first half, outscoring the Rams 9-3 to set the tone for the second half. Caroline connected on his second 3-pointer followed by a layup by Cody Martin off a steal and an assist from his brother Caleb. Porter also had a pair of free throws and an off-balance jumper in the lane to close out the Pack scoring in the opening half.
Both teams shot well in the opening half. Colorado State was 13-of-26 from the floor and 6-of-12 on threes (Paige was 3-of-4) while the Pack was 17-of-30 (57 percent) from the floor and also 6-of-12 on threes.
The Wolf Pack’s 42 first-half points more than doubled its first-half output of just four days earlier (20) in the win over Air Force.
“That was kind of ridiculous,“ said Caleb Martin of the 20-point first half on Saturday. “We knew we were a batter team than that.”
The Pack’s six threes in the first half against Colorado State is also more than it had in each of its last two full games (five each against Boise State and Air Force).
It took the Wolf Pack roughly five minutes in the second half to put the game away. Colorado State didn’t even score in the first three minutes as the Pack scored the first seven points of the half to take a 49-35 lead.
Colorado State, now 1-11 this season when scoring under 80 points, made just two field goals (a pair of 3-pointers by Paige) in the first seven minutes of the second half as the Pack took a commanding 67-41 lead with 13 minutes to play.
Cody Martin (16:33 left), Caroline (15:06) and Caleb Martin (14:11) all had 3-pointers as the Wolf Pack shot the Rams out of the gym. Porter also had a pair of free throws and a three-point play as the Pack outscored the Rams 25-6 over the first seven minutes of the second half and 67-28 over the game’s final 23 minutes.
The Pack, which has now won six in a row against Colorado State to lead the series 13-9, stretched its lead to 30 (77-47) on a 3-pointer by Caleb Martin with just more than 11 minutes to play. The lead reached 40 (90-50) on a Cody Martin dunk with 7:19 to play.
The Pack has now won 13 games in a row at home (10-0 this year) and is 53-5 at home under Musselman over the last three-plus years. Almost half of Musselman’s 100 career victories have come in Mountain West play, where he’s now 45-16.
“It was just great to put forth such a strong offensive and defensive game,” Porter said. “We all believe we are a talented team and that we can do some great things. Tonight showed that we can do that.”
The Wolf Pack will now get almost a week off before playing at UNLV on Tuesday night. The Pack’s next home game is Feb. 2 against Boise State.
“We’ve been struggling offensively,” said Thurman, who reached double figures in scoring (10 points) for the seventh time this year. “This is a confidence builder. Part of it was guys trusting themselves, part of it was guys trusting each other and part of it was guys just having fun.”