Big second half lifts Nevada
RENO — Nevada is making a name for itself as a second-half team.
In its first seven games, the Wolf Pack outscored its opponents in the second half six of those games, the lone exception being the season-opener at Saint Mary’s College.
Make that seven out of eight. Nevada went on a 22-2 run over a 5-minute stretch in the final half to knock off Pacific, 77-67, before a crowd of 6,920 Tuesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada improved to 6-2, and is off to its best start since Mark Fox’s 2006-07 team ripped off seven straight victories to open the season en route to a 29-5 mark.
The key numbers behind the win were holding Pacific to 38 percent from the field and just five free throws, and Nevada draining a season-best 11 3-pointers, including 6-for-12 in the second half.
“I thought that was our best defensive effort of the year,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We wanted to give (Ray) Bowles room and a high volume of field-goal attempts. We wanted to keep them off the line. He got 22 points, but it took him 21 shots to do it. It was tough to stay with it after he hit a couple of 3s. We wanted to make them beat us over the top.
“We’re a high volume 3-point shooting team. Last year it would have been hard to do that. Everybody would have needed to wear a helmet because the ball was ricocheting all over the place. But Marcus (Marshall) changes everything for us this year. We’re just a completely different team than we were last year. We shot 44 percent (on 3s), and that was the difference in the game.”
And, everybody got into the act from long range. Cam Oliver went 3-for-7, Marshall 2-for-5, freshman Josh Hall 2-for-3 and D.J. Fenner 2-for-4.
“It’s great (to have the green light),” said Marshall, who finished with 17 along with Cam Oliver. “It’s just about taking good shots.”
And, four 3-point field goals played a big role in Nevada’s aforementioned 22-2 run that wiped out a 50-46 Pacific lead.
Two free throws by Marshall and one by Fenner made it 50-49 with 9:52 left in the game. After a turnover by Bowles, Oliver (17 points) drained a 3-pointer to give Nevada a 52-50 lead. After T.J. Wallace misfired, Marshall dealt a pass to Fenner, who knocked in a 3-pointer to make it 55-50 with 8:52 left.
Jack Williams ended the Pacific drought with a jump shot in the paint, but Nevada answered back with 13 straight points to make it 68-52.
Marshall hit a 3-pointer and then Jordan Caroline made two free tosses and converted a three-point play. Oliver delivered a bucket and Fenner banged home another trey.
“When you shoot (and make) a lot of 3s, you deflate the opposition,” Musselman said. “Sometimes the green light might be over green.”
Neither team shot well in the first half, which featured three ties and five lead changes before the Pack ended the half with a 6-2 run for a 31-26 lead. Nevada rolled to an 8-2 lead, but Pacific battled back to tie the game at 14 with 7:18 left in the half.
Leland King II, who will see more playing time with the absence of Elijah Foster (arrested Monday morning), and freshman Hall led a 17-9 surge down the stretch.
Three free throws by King and a trey by Oliver gave Nevada a 20-14 lead. Threes by Wallace and Williams sparked an 8-3 UOP surge, cutting the lead to 25-24. A dunk by Drew and two free throws by Oliver made it 29-24. After a basket by Williams, Hall scored on a lean-in to close out the half.