Oliver lifts Nevada past New Mexico 64-62 in MWC quarters
LAS VEGAS — Don’t call Cameron Oliver a freshman anymore.
Oliver, playing like a battle-tested veteran, had a career high 26 points with 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, one with 3.5 seconds to play to give Nevada a 64-62 win over New Mexico in the Mountain West quarterfinals on Thursday.
With a 63-62 lead, Nevada’s Eric Cooper missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 15.7 seconds left. New Mexico whipped the ball around to Cullen Neal in the right corner but Oliver closed quickly for the swat. Lindsey Drew leaped out of bounds to grab the ball and threw it back in to Cooper, who was fouled with a half-second left. He had a make and a miss and the clock ran out.
The win earned Nevada a game with regular-season champion San Diego State today.
“I thought our defensive effort was phenomenal,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We’ve been a great defensive team all season long. And, for a team that’s a little bit injured and down in numbers, the effort and the energy and the enthusiasm — especially at the defensive end tonight. Down the stretch of the game we made defensive play after defensive play.
“And then obviously Cam Oliver came up with a monster game. We knew was a guy we were going to try to force feed tonight going into the game. And Cam came through for us big time. And so did TC (Tyron Criswell) with his ability to dribble drive in transition.”
But Oliver was definitely the key performer for the Wolf Pack.
“Cam has been unbelievable,” Musselman said. “He’s a special freshman. As the season’s progressed we’ve kind of gone to him a little bit more offensively. And sometimes when you’re dealing with people and players this age it’s a constant learning experience.
“And I just told Cam, Man, you wasted about 12 games this year. We kept telling him that you have an unbelievable amount of talent. To Cam’s credit he just keeps getting better and better and figuring this thing out. And I think he knows he’s got a really, really bright future. He ran the floor tonight much harder than he had all season long.”
The play of the game, however, was the last-second block.
The Lobos put up a game-winning 3-pointer from the right corner, but Oliver came up with the aforementioned block to preserve the win.
“I saw we had Elijah (Brown) trapped,” Oliver said. “I read the swing of the ball. I was right there on time.”
Sam Logwood put New Mexico ahead with a layup with 47.1 seconds remaining but Tyron Criswell quickly answered with a contested layup for Nevada at 36.5 seconds, the 16th lead change.
Criswell had 20 points for the Wolf Pack (19-12). Brown had 26 points for New Mexico and Logwood had 16.
“It definitely feels good we have one more game,” Criswell said. “Hopefully we can continue to advance.”