A tale of two halves for Nevada basketball
For the Appeal
RENO — Eric Musselman has plenty to talk about with his team this week.
“We have a lot of work to do between now and next Friday,” the Nevada Wolf Pack coach said after an 88-58 exhibition victory over the San Francisco State Gators Friday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack, which opens the regular season next Friday at Saint Mary’s, played two entirely different halves of basketball in front of a crowd of 4,120. Leading just 33-32 at halftime, the Wolf Pack dominated the Division II Gators in the second half.
“We all just came together,” said forward Cam Oliver, whose 21 points led all scorers. “We know what we have to do.”
San Francisco State outscored the Wolf Pack 26-15 over the final 10:21 of the first half, scoring a dozen points in the paint and 10 off 10 Wolf Pack turnovers. The Pack also shot just 34.5 percent in the first half, missing 11 of their final 14 shots.
“I just think we had some butterflies seeing the fans for the first time,” junior center Elijah Foster said.
“We started a little slow and sluggish,” Musselman said. “But we had five guys playing their first game in uniform. That’s part of our growth. We’ll get better each day.”
The Pack got better at halftime, outscoring the overwhelmed Gators 55-26 in the second 20 minutes. The Wolf Pack also found its shooting touch, converting more than half its shots (20-of-36) in the second half.
“In the second half we weren’t as nervous” said freshman guard Devearl Ramsey, who made his Wolf Pack debut with 12 points, four assists and two steals. “We had more fun in the second half. And our defense got our offense going with some easy baskets.”
Oliver, who had 12 points at halftime, took over the game in the second half. The 6-foot-8 sophomore had a layup and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the circle for a 38-32 Wolf Pack lead a minute into the second half. Oliver then jumpstarted a game-changing 16-2 run with a fade away 12-foot jumper and an eight footer in the lane.
“We just needed a spark,” Oliver said. “I needed to take a leadership role and step up to the plate.”
Musselman was pleased to see Oliver carry his team coming out the halftime locker room.
“When we threw the ball into Cam it changed everything,” Musselman said. “And Cam did what a go-to player should do.”
Foster also asserted himself during the 16-2 run with six consecutive points on a layup, a 15-foot jumper and an offensive rebound and a bucket right in front of the basket. Senior D.J. Fenner then capped off the run with a 3-pointer giving the Wolf Pack a 59-42 lead with 12 minutes to go.
“Elijah’s minutes (12 points, five rebounds in 12 minutes) were phenomenal,” Musselman said. “He changed the complexion of how we played.”
The Wolf Pack outscored the Gators 42-18 over the final 14:21.
“We played a much different second half than we played in the first half,” Musselman said. “There were a lot of bright spots in the second half.”
“It was just good to get in front of a crowd and put on a show,” Foster said.
Marcus Marshall, a 6-3 senior playing his first game in a Wolf Pack uniform, connected on a 3-pointer for a 43-36 lead with 17 minutes to go and found the range on a 3-pointer with seven minutes to go for a 68-49 lead. Marshall finished with eight points and five boards in 20 minutes.
“You’ll see the real Marcus Marshall in time,” Musselman said. “He’s played much better in practice than he did tonight.”
Another newcomer, 6-7 forward Jordan Caroline, also struggled at times. The 235-pound sophomore was just 1-of-8 from the field and finished with four points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.
“Jordan just needs to slow down a bit and let the game come to him more,” Musselman said.
Ramsey was the most impressive of the new players expected to play significant minutes this season. The 5-foot-10 freshman was 4-of-10 from the floor (2-of-6 on threes) and gave the Pack offense a spark at point guard with his quickness.
“The coaches have been telling me to ‘Push the ball, push the ball,’” Ramsey said. “So that’s what I was trying to do and if I got my shot, I took it.”
Ramsey wasn’t shy in his first college game, hoisting up 10 shots in just 21 minutes. His first 3-pointer gave the Wolf Pack a 43-36 lead with 17:05 to play and his second put the Pack up 71-49 with 6:31 to go.
“Everything at this level is faster and I think I just adjusted better in the second half,” said Ramsey, who had just two points at halftime. “I just tried to ease into it tonight and let the game come to me.”
Musselman expressed concern after the game with the Wolf Pack’s defense against the Gators’ 3-point shooters. San Francisco State was 6-of-13 from behind the arc with Nick Calcaterra (12 points) leading the way with three 3-pointers. Parker U’u had a pair of threes and 11 points and Warren Jackson had the Gators other 3-pointer and finished with a team-high 15 points.
“We have to do a better job of defending the three ball,” Musselman said. “We’ll clean that up.”
When asked what the Pack will work on this week before the Saint Mary’s game next Friday, Musselman listed about 10 different areas. “Is that list long enough?” he smiled. “We have a lot of areas to clean up.”