Defense in the paint key for Nevada vs. OSU |

Defense in the paint key for Nevada vs. OSU

Darrell Moody
Nevada's Jordan Caroline, right, pulls in a rebound next to Saint Mary's Joe Rahon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in Moraga, Calif. At left is Nevada's Cameron Oliver. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Nevada basketball coach Eric Musselman readily admits his Wolf Pack squad will find out a lot about itself in the next week.

“We have three tough games coming up,” Musselman said prior to Thursday’s practice. “We will find out a lot about ourselves by the time we come back from Alaska (Great Alaska Shootout).

“Oregon State was an NCAA team, Iona was in the NCAA and Oakland is a really good basketball team. I anticipate close games. If we don’t come to play, we’re not going to win any of them.”

Iona comes to town Sunday (5 p.m.) in a first-round game of the Great Alaska Shootout, and the Pack faces Oakland in Alaska on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

First up, however, are the 2-1 Oregon State Beavers, who beat Nevada last year in Corvallis. The Beavers invade Lawlor Events Center tonight at 7 (ESPN 3/. 94.5 FM).

The Beavers are coming off a 63-60 home loss to Lamar on Wednesday, and they’re huge with 6-8 Tres Trinkle, (18.3, 11.7), 6-10 Drew Eubanks (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and 7-foot Cheikh N’diaye (3.7, 3.7) up front.

“They have guys who can score the ball,” Musselman said. “They have size inside which really presents a challenge to us.

“Eubanks is a shot blocker (over 4 a game) and he can run the floor. Tres (Tinkle) is a hard match-up.”

Interior defense hasn’t been Nevada’s strength in its first two games. The Pack has given up 98 points in the paint in splitting games against 17th-ranked Saint Mary’s College and Loyola Marymount.

“Loyola really didn’t hurt us, and they had two 7-footers,” Musselman said. “Saint Mary’s does a great job of executing. We have to be more consistent with Cam (Oliver), Jordan (Caroline) and Elijah (Foster). We have to do a good job on the boards and keep people out of the lanes.”

“They are really long,” Foster said. “They will attack us in the paint. We have to keep them in front of us.”

Musselman has been impressed with freshman point guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who’s averaging 13.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. He has turned the ball over 10 times, however.

As a team, OSU is averaging 20 turnovers a contest.

“We want to be able to pressure them,” Foster said, admitting he noticed the turnovers during film study.

Foster believes Nevada would have won last year’s game if it had been at home (66-62).

“We play so well here, and we have the crowd behind us,” said Foster.

The Pack is 17-3 at Lawlor with Musselman at the helm.

Nevada will match OSU’s scoring trio with three capable scorers — senior transfer Marcus Marshall (21.5), Oliver (13.5) and D.J. Fenner (12.0). Foster is also averaging in double figures (11.0) after his career-best 18 points against Loyola Marymount.

It makes for an interesting early season match-up.

“This will tell us a lot about ourselves,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle told the Corvallis Times-Gazette after Wednesday’s loss to Lamar. “We got pistol-whipped today and we’re playing a very talented team on the road for our first (road) game Friday. So it will tell us a lot about ourselves here early.”