Nevada Wolf Pack basketball learning from 2 losses
Joe Santoro: Drew needs to draw more for Nevada Wolf Pack
RENO — Nevada basketball players are finally back home, sleeping in their own beds, taking finals and preparing for their first multi-game homestand since the first week of the season.
The schedule, simply put, has been brutal with six road/neutral court games in less than a month, and to come away with a 4-2 record in that stretch is impressive. And, an 8-2 overall record is equally impressive.
The losses came against Texas Tech (82-76) and No. 20 TCU (84-80). Both were games that could have gone Nevada’s way, especially the Texas Tech contest where the Red Raiders rallied to force overtime and won it in the extra period.
“We made a challenging schedule for a reason,” coach Eric Musselman told reporters Thursday afternoon inside the Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center. “We look forward to playing two home games this week and then head back on the road for two neutral-court games, and then get ready for conference.”
The Pack faces Radford on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and then hosts UC Davis on Tuesday. Both games are part of the Continental Tires Classic event in Las Vegas. Nevada will play Southern Illinois on Dec. 22 and USF on Dec. 23 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Home is where the Pack prefers to be, and with good reason. Under Musselman, the Pack has posted a 33-4 record in his two-plus seasons. Musselman has brought excitement back to Nevada basketball, and Lawlor Events Center has become a very tough place for visitors.
“Our first meeting, we said if you want to have an elite program you have to win at home,” Musselman said. “We have exceeded our expectations. It is hard to win at the pace we have. Great crowd. All our guys feed off the energy of Lawlor.
“I’m never happy losing any games. If you had told me at the beginning of the year we’d be 8-2 with our schedule and who we’re playing … we’re where we need to be. We have to play as well as we can and take care of business the last four games and play as well as we possibly can and continue to grow as a team as well.”
Musselman said that he felt much better about the recent road trip after talking to friends on the TCU staff.
“We lost to two teams in the top 25,” Muselman said. “Our basketball program has never played two top-25 teams in a season let alone back-to-back. It was very challenging for sure. We came away from both games thinking we could have won. A possession here, a possession there … we didn’t get blown out. Our guys believe we can play with anybody in country.
“For me, when we lose it’s a disaster. Guys felt a little better as time went on. We lost two games; figure a way to make up two more wins along line. Our defense across the board has been really good. I’m not saying great. We focus so much on post defense and rebounding, maybe we haven’t spent as much time in other areas. Against TCU, I thought our defense was good. I felt a little better (about things) after I talked to TCU.”
In both losses, Nevada had trouble with dribble penetration.
Jordan Caroline said the Pack has to go out and prove being ranked was deserved.
“We have a lot to prove,” he said. “We have to show people we were not overhyped. Against TCU, we had a hangover (from the Texas Tech loss) and we were not ready to play. Once we turned it on, it was too late.”
Kendall Stephens said the two losses served as a wake-up call.
“That is how we have to approach it,” he said. “We have to play one game at a time and not make the same mistakes.”
Musselman said Caleb Martin is still a little hobbled from an early season toe injury. It hasn’t stopped him from playing 30-plus minutes a game. He is averaging 19.7 points and 5.4 rebounds.
“We felt this week would be the week it got better,” Musselman said. “I think it’s going to be a year-long thing. Cody and Caleb have had foot problems. Caleb’s is a little more of a concern, but he’s managing it. I think it’s 100 percent because of the way it’s been managed by Caleb and the training staff. I don’t think it’s hindered his game.”