Caroline takes a dive many times for Pack |

Caroline takes a dive many times for Pack

Joe Santoro
For the Appeal
Jordan Caroline powers to the hoop against the UC Irvine Anteaters Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

RENO — Jordan Caroline might be forcing the NCAA to keep track of a new statistic.

When asked how many times he had to dive on the floor during the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 76-69 victory over the UC Irvine Anteaters on Wednesday night, the sophomore answered with a smile, ‘I’d say about 13. I got a triple double tonight.”

Diving on the floor, unfortunately for the Wolf Pack’s 6-foot-7 forward, isn’t an official statistic so he had to settle for a mere double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

“The thing Jordan did tonight as well as anything, I thought,” Pack coach Eric Musselman said, “was his five assists. But he was also relentless on the glass.”

Caroline, who was averaging 11.4 points and 8.7 rebounds going into Wednesday’s game, now has four double-doubles this season. He had three double-doubles in a row against Oregon State, Iona and Oakland from November 18-23. He’s had at least seven points and five rebounds in each of the Pack’s 11 games this season.

“His game has gotten so much better this year,” Wolf Pack senior Marcus Marshall said. “He’s gotten better at everything because he just works so hard. He comes to play all the time.”

Caroline had six points and six rebounds in 16 minutes in the first half as the Pack built a 42-36 lead at the break. His offensive rebound and lay-up gave the Pack a 35-23 lead with six minutes to go in the first half. He then played all 20 minutes in the second half, scoring nine points and pulling down seven boards.

One of the reasons Caroline couldn’t leave the floor in the second half was because fellow post player Cam Oliver had to sit on the bench with four fouls for a stretch of nearly nine minutes.

“Cam is such a presence in the paint,” Caroline said. “It definitely hurt not to have him out there. I was just trying to do as much as I could.”

The Wolf Pack, thanks to Caroline, actually increased its lead from six points (51-45 with 13:13 to play) to nine (65-56 with 4:38 left) with Oliver on the bench. Caroline had six points, three rebounds and an assist with Oliver on the bench.

“When Irvine would go on a run I just tried to up my energy, get to the glass more, make something happen,” Caroline said.

Caroline has become the Wolf Pack’s instant energy source this season.

“When he’s out there I can kind of feel his toughness, his desire, his competitive nature,” Musselman said. “It becomes infectious throughout the building. Even people who watch our games on TV can see his energy and desire. People are always commenting on how he plays.”

Caroline’s energy and hustle put the game out of reach in the final minutes. He pulled down a rebound after an Oliver block and electrified the crowd with a dunk after chasing down the ball from mid-court, absorbing a foul from Irvine’s Jonathan Galloway along the way. He made the free throw for the three-point play and a 68-59 Wolf Pack lead with 3:29 to go.

“He is just so aggressive out there,” Wolf Pack point guard Lindsey Drew said. “He’s just so fierce out there all the time. He’s such a unique player.”

Caroline, who had to sit out last season after transferring to Nevada from Southern Illinois, has now scored in double figures three games in a row. He had a season-high 23 points against Bradley on Dec. 3 and followed that up with 12 points against Washington on Dec. 11. During the last three games he has averaged 16.7 points and nine rebounds. He put up a season-high 16 shot attempts against Irvine and made just four, for one of his worst shooting nights of the season. But he did enjoy his best game (percentage-wise) from the free throw line, making 7-of-8.

Caroline’s value to the Pack, though, goes beyond the numbers. And it all starts with his energy and hustle.

“That’s what we expect from Jordan,” Marshall said. “When we see that from him, it makes us all better because if he can do it, we all should do it.”