Nevada rolls to victory
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack might want to start playing the song Sweet Georgia Brown during the games instead of just during the pre-game warm-up.
“We came out and did exactly what we wanted to do,” senior guard Marqueze Coleman said after a 119-70 victory over the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds on Wednesday in front of 5,014 fans at Lawlor Events Center. “We wanted to put our foot on the gas pedal and not take it off.”
The Wolf Pack clearly ran right over the Division II Sunbirds, scoring their most points in a game since a 120-116 win over Loyola Marymount on Nov. 29, 1991. The Pack’s 73 points in the second half is also a school record.
“I expect us to play like this every night,” said forward Tyron Criswell, who scored a game-high 26 points in just 25 minutes.
The Pack, now 6-3, shot 60 percent (40-of-67) from the floor overall and 54 percent (13-of-24 from 3-point range). Seven different Pack players scored in double figures.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that since high school,” Coleman said with a smile.
The Pack was expecting to have some fun offensively against the Sunbirds. It was just 10 days ago, after all, the Wolf Pack beat Division II Holy Names 108-57 at Lawlor.
“Before the game we had written on the board that we had to score 100 points tonight,” Pack coach Eric Musselman said.
The Pack reached its goal on a jumper by Criswell with 5:21 to play. Criswell was 9-of-10 from the floor and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. His only miss came on his only 3-point attempt.
“It felt good,” Criswell said with a smile. “It should have gone in.”
Just about everything else the Pack tried against the Sunbirds (4-2) did work as planned. Cameron Oliver and Eric Ccoper each scored 16 points, Coleman had 15 and Lindsey Drew added 12. The Wolf Pack also dominated the boards, pulling down 60 rebounds, 36 more than Fresno Pacific. No Pack player, though, had more than seven rebounds (Drew and Criswell). “That’s pretty crazy,” smiled A.J. West, who had 11 points and six rebounds. “I don’t know if it’s inflated or not because it was a Division II team but 60 rebounds is 60 rebounds.”
“We wanted to try to enforce our will on the backboards,” Musselman said.
The Wolf Pack, coming off a 66-62 loss at Oregon State on Saturday, was a bit sluggish to start the game. The Sunbirds didn’t score for the first seven minutes of the game but the Pack held just a 31-24 lead with just three minutes to go in the first half. The Pack turned the ball over 10 times in the first nine minutes.
“I wanted us to play at a fast pace and we might have over-emphasized that a little too much because we probably were a little over-aggressive to start the game,” Musselman said. “But I’d rather be too aggressive than passive.”
“The first 10 minutes or so we weren’t satisfied where the score was,” Criswell said. “We picked it up.”
The Pack settled down and turned the ball over 10 more times over the last 21 minutes. The 20 turnovers, though, are a season high for the Pack.
“In the first half we had kind of a slow start,” Coleman said. “We just wanted to come out and impose our will in the second half.”
The Pack, which led 46-29 at halftime, pushed its lead to 67-37 just six minutes into the second half. Drew hit a 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the half to get the offense started. Coleman also drained a three for a 60-35 lead with 16 minutes to go.
“There hasn’t been one time this year when I told them to pass up an open three,” Musselman said. “We’ve given them a lot of freedom to shoot the ball because we want them to build confidence.”
Four Pack players had two or more 3-pointers, led by Cooper’s four. Coleman had three and Drew and Fenner each had two. The Pack shot 16 3-pointers in the second half, making nine. The Pack’s 13 successful threes and 24 3-point attempts are both season highs.
“It was good for Marqueze to hit three threes,” Musselman said. “It was good for Cooper and Drew. It helps their confidence.”
Coleman hit two threes in a span of 18 seconds to give the Pack a 79-44 lead with 11:36 to play. Cooper connected on a pair of threes 41 seconds apart to give the Pack an 85-44 lead with 10:26 left.
The Pack’s lead reached as high as 54 (102-48 with 5:21 to go) after a 3-point play by Criswell. Seldom-used Justin Botteri hit a jumper with 47 seconds to go and David Cunningham had a 3-pointer with five seconds left for their first career points.
“We play hard until the final buzzer,” Musselman said. “We play every possession like the score is 0-0. That’s how I was raised. We’re not going to take a possession off.”
All but one (Juwan Anderson, who played just five minutes) of the 13 Pack players who played against Fresno Pacific scored. The Pack players weren’t apologizing for running the score up on the out-manned Sunbirds. Fresno Pacific was picked by the league’s coaches before the season to finish 11th in the 14-team Pacific West Conference.
“Whoever steps on the court against us has to be prepared to play basketball,” Coleman said. “We’re going to compete to our fullest extent. If that’s what the score is, that’s what it is.”
The Wolf Pack will host Drake on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Lawlor.
“We’ve already put our scouting report on Drake up on the board,” Musselman said.
“A game like this (Fresno Pacific), you just want to come out, take care of business and just get it out of the way early,” Coleman said. “We’ve already put this one behind us.”