Nevada basketball: Wolf Pack soars past Hawks
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — Lucas Stivrins won’t soon forget Monday night.
The backup center came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points in just 13 minutes as the Nevada Wolf Pack trounced the Holy Names Hawks 108-57 in front of a crowd of 4,896 at Lawlor Events Center.
“Just seeing every shot go through the net, it really builds your confidence,” said Stivrins with a smile. “It really feels good to have your shot hitting on all cylinders.”
Stivrins made six 3-pointers and also had three rebounds and a block, all in the second half. The 6-foot-11 senior had just one 3-pointer in his entire Wolf Pack career before Monday night. He now has a new career high in points, field goals (six) and threes.
“Watching him I was just thinking, ‘Keep shooting,’” said freshman Cameron Oliver, who was 8-of-8 from the floor for 17 points. “I know he always kills me in practice with 3-pointers.”
All six of Stivrins 3-pointers came during a seven-minute stretch starting with just 8:17 to play. His final three 3-pointers, all with under three minutes to play, came in a span of just 64 seconds.
“We all tell him, ‘Don’t pass up open shots if you get them,’” said forward Tyron Criswell, who also had 17 points. “He let it fly tonight.”
Stivrins had played a total of just one minute this season before Monday.
“By the way, Luke, you made me look bad for not playing you more,” said Pack coach Eric Musselman with a smile. “At Thanksgiving at my house, Luke was the happiest guy and the best guy to be around and he’s not even playing. But he never stops working and studying. If he felt sorry for himself because he wasn’t playing there is no way he could go out there and bust six threes.”
Stivrins, who has played in just 49 of a possible 70 games since he came to Nevada for the start of the 2013-14 season, had never scored more than nine points in a game for the Pack. His high game in his one season for Pratt Community College as a freshman was 14 points.
“The coaches always tell me, ‘Keep working, keep grinding,’” Stivrins said. “I just have to keep my confidence high. That’s my thing.”
Confidence is not a problem for the Wolf Pack right now. The Pack is 5-2 for its best start after seven games since the 2006-07 team started 7-0. The 51-point win over the Division II Hawks is also the program’s largest since a 56-point (95-39) win over Sonoma State on Dec. 9, 2008. The 108 points is also the Pack’s most in a game since it beat Houston 112-99 on Nov. 21, 2009.
“The guys were phenomenal on both sides of the ball,” Musselman said. “The big thing after the loss to Fullerton (75-66 on Saturday) was to not let it linger.”
“Coming off that loss we were kind of down,” Criswell said. “But (Musselman) always says, ‘Never lose two straight.’ That’s our goal all year.”
The Wolf Pack, though, found itself in a 15-15 tie just seven minutes into the game against the Hawks. Musselman then called a timeout.
“He just told us, ‘Where’s your energy? This game shouldn’t be 15-15 right now. Pick it up,”’ Criswell said.
The Wolf Pack responded, going on a 24-0 run to take control of the game. Six different Pack players scored during the run, led by Criswell’s seven points, six from Oliver and five from A.J. West. The run took just under seven minutes. Holy Names, now 1-7 on the year, missed all 10 of its shots and turned the ball over seven times while the Pack was on its 24-0 run.
The Wolf Pack outscored the Hawks 42-6 over the final 13 minutes of the first half to take a 57-21 lead at the break. The Pack shot 58 percent (22-of-38) in the first 20 minutes and held the overwhelmed Hawks to 25 percent (7-of-28).
“If we keep that energy up on the defensive side we should continue to win games,” Criswell said.
The second half was just an extension of the last 13 minutes of the first half. The Wolf Pack, thanks to Stivrins, shot even better in the second 20 minutes, connecting on 18-of-29 shots (62 percent). The Pack also was 6-of-9 on threes in the second half and 9-of-16 for the game. The Pack was shooting just 28 percent (27-of-97) on threes entering the game.
“I want them to feel comfortable shooting the three,” Musselman said. “Maybe to a fault, but I have given them liberty to shoot the three so far this year because I want them to develop confidence. Maybe tonight is the start of building that confidence and becoming a better 3-point shooting team.”
Musselman played all 12 active players on the roster (guard Juwan Anderson is out with an ankle injury). West finished with 16 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Eric Cooper had nine points and three players (Elijah Foster, Lindsey Drew, D.J. Fenner) each had eight. Guard Marqueze Coleman, the Pack’s leading scorer before Monday at 21.3 points a game, had just two points in 20 minutes but he took just one shot and had a career-high 11 assists.
“Our locker room is at an all-time high as far as chemistry and feeling good about stuff right now,” Musselman said.
The Wolf Pack will play at Oregon State on Saturday afternoon (1 pm.) before returning to Lawlor Events Center on Dec. 9 to meet Fresno Pacific.