Streaking Nevada faces struggling UNLV
LAS VEGAS – Nevada basketball coach Eric Musselman has a message for his team. Don’t look forward and don’t look back.
Translation. Forget about the win over Boise State on Wednesday and don’t even think about the games at San Jose State or the showdown at home against Colorado State.
The second-year head coach wants the focus totally on intrastate rival UNLV. The Pack (22-6, 11-4) and UNLV (10-18, 3-12) square off today at 3 p.m. (CBS Sports Network/94.3 FM). Nevada won the first meeting, 104-77, on the strength of a career-best 37 points by senior D.J. Fenner.
“I think for us we have to do what we do and play hard,” Musselman told reporters Thursday morning. “It was an emotional win over Boise State. We have to put that in the rear-view mirror, go to Vegas and figure out a way to win a game.
“Trying to figure out a way to beat UNLV. That is the soul focus for us. That is the only thing we should be thinking about and worrying about.”
To a man, the Nevada players felt they played harder than Boise State on Wednesday, and that has to be a trend moving forward.
“This is the way it has to be for the rest of the season,” Cameron Oliver said. “Every game is going to be like this one (Boise State).”
UNLV is coming off a brutal 81-58 loss at Air Force on Wednesday. The Rebels enter the game on an eight-game losing streak. One shy of the school record set in the 1958-59 season. UNLV coach Marvin Menzies told the Las Vegas Review Journal “all the players were really bad tonight.”
Still, it’s a rivalry game, and more importantly, a road game. Nevada is 6-4 in true road games this season. Not a great percentage by any means. After UNLV it’s an improved San Jose State team, also on the road.
“I worry about every game,” Musselman said. “In the Mountain West, it’s hard to win on the road. Teams play desperately. They are trying to build momentum for the Mountain West Conference Tournament. There is a lot of basketball left. Three games is an eternity in the Mountain West; in any conference.
“UNLV is a very good offensive rebounding team. (Jovan) Mooring can score the ball and create his own shot. We are going to show them things that hurt us. We will prep like we always do.”
Musselman also pointed out the Rebels are good at getting loose balls, which can keep possessions going, and that’s a big concern.
The Pack enters today’s game on a three-game win streak, and one of the reasons is the play of Oliver, who’s averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in that stretch.
“Cam has been more consistent,” Musselman said. “He’s been rebounding the ball like we thought he was capable of doing. We need Cameron to play at a high level the next three games and in the tournament.
“We saw that last year. He played really well down the stretch, and we hope that continues. Great players rise to the occasion. We need him to continue to play at the highest level.”
The game also marks the return to UNLV of Dave Rice, the former UNLV head coach. Rice was fired despite being 40 games over .500.
“I’m sure it’s a meaningful game for him,” Musselman said. “The players understand this. I thought he did a great job coaching there. His family still lives there.
“All of our assistants have done a great job this year with game prep and recruiting.”