Nevada Wolf Pack not just happy to be there | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Wolf Pack not just happy to be there

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com
Cody Martin battles for the basketball earlier in the season against Fresno State.
Thomas Ranson/LVN |

TEXAS (19-14) VS. No. 24 NEVADA (27-7)

When: Today, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Bridgestone Arena (17,578)

TV-Radio: TBS/630 AM

Last meeting: Nevada 61, Texas 57, 2005 NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis

Projected starters:

TEXAS: F 6-11 Mo Bamba (12.9, 10.4) and 6-9 Dylan Osetkowski (13.6, 7.1); G- 6-2 Matt Coleman (9.7, 4.1 assists), 6-4 Kerwin Roach (11.9, 3.7) and 6-5 Jase Febres (3.5, 1.8).

NEVADA: F 6-5 Caleb Martin (19.1, 5.3) and 6-7 Jordan Caroline (17.9, 8.8); G 6-7 Cody Martin (13.6, 6.3), 6-7 Kendall Stephens (13.2, 2.0) and 6-3 Hallice Cooke (4.9, 2.1).

News & Notes

The 7-10 matchup has been a good one for Nevada. The year Nevada went to the Sweet 16 it was a 10 seed and beat Michigan State, and the Pack was a 7 seed and beat Creighton in overtime in New Orleans …Bomba led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally in blocks per game (3.7) through games of March 11. He was also in the top 15 in rebounds at 10.4 per contest. He had seven blocked shots in a game against Texas Tech back in late January … Freshman Matt Coleman came from Oak Hill Academy, the same school that Cody and Caleb Martin graduated from. The Martins played just their senior season for Oak Hill … Jacob Young came off the bench for a career-high 29 points against Texas Tech on March 8 … Jordan Caroline has scored 20 or more points in the last five games, 6-of-7 and 7-of-9. Caroline has three double-doubles in the last five games and five in the last nine games… Kendall Stephens set the MW record, conference games, with 73 made 3-pointers in conference play this season and his 118 overall is a Pack record and second most in MW history behind Jimmer Fredette’s (BYU)124. Stephens is one of three players to have made five or more 3s in 12 games this season but the only one competing in the NCAA Tournament.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What a difference a year makes.

Last March, the Pack was just happy to be in the Big Dance after a 10-year absence. This year, Pack players have a quiet resolve; a businesslike approach. They want to take the next step, and that means winning a game or two.

“I think that, you know, all over our community, that it was a time of semi-celebration,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said prior to Friday’s NCAA opener against Texas. “I mean we’re here to try and win a basketball game, and that’s it.

“We are happy and everything, but I don’t see guys tweeting stuff out like they did last year. I don’t see the cameras going all over the place, taking pictures of everything. I think we’ve had a businesslike approach.”

That sentiment was shared by junior Jordan Caroline.

“You don’t want to just keep getting there and losing,” he said. “You don’t want to plateau. Each year, we try to get better. We came here to win a couple games, not just one. We have big goals ahead of us.”

“Our intentions are always to win the game,” Caleb Martin said. “We came to Nashville to win, win a couple of games. So we’re going to come here with the mindset we’re ready to play, just like any other game.”

Two wins would get Nevada to the Sweet 16, something that hasn’t happened since the 2003-04 season. Nevada knocked off Michigan State and Gonzaga before losing to Georgia Tech. The current group of players weren’t even teenagers when that happened.

The task in front of the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack isn’t an easy one. The Longhorns went 19-14, including an 8-10 record in the Big 12.

“They are so well coached and they have great size, and they have players that have bright futures,” Musselman said. “Having just said that, we’ve got to be better for one game, 40 minutes, but yeah, they’re long and we’re not.”

Mo Bamba, Dylan Osetkowski and Jericho Sims are long, just as long as frontliners at San Diego State and UNLV, MW teams that beat Nevada this season.

“I think that’s (size) the biggest issue is probably just the size,” Cody Martin said. “That’s the obvious thing going toward our team. But we both like to play fast, so that’s something we’re looking forward to. They are a really good defensive team, but we’re a good offensive team. I think the biggest thing for us is just moving the ball.”

“Osetkowski is very good,” Caleb Martin said. “We’ve watched a lot of film on him. He’s one of the players who can change the entire momentum of their game.”

Bamba, who’s expected to be a lottery pick when the NBA draft rolls around, missed several games with a toe injury. He said he’s 100 percent. The scary thing is Bamba is still green. His best days are well ahead of him, according to Texas coach Shaka Smart, who said he hopes Bamba feels he has something to prove.

“He’s very motivated,“ Smart said. “One of the things that we’ve tried to help him understand this season is some of the guys you’re going up against on a night-in and night-out basis are a lot better than you thought they were.

“He’s had some humbling experiences going back to November when guys have gotten the better of him on certain plays or even the course of a game.”

Bamba said his game has gotten better.

“My game is night and day from June 1,” Bamba said. “I’m just playing out there. I’m shooting with confidence. I’m getting into post moves, using my body more.”

Bamba may have more of a role at the defensive end. The Longhorns will expect him to derail Jordan Caroline, who averages nearly 18 a game.

“I think one team that we faced in the Big 12 that was kind of position-less both offensively and defensively is probably Texas Tech,” Bamba said. “They played a lot of small ball, and it was a pretty good matchup for us. Nevada has a lot of guys that can really go offensively, and we’ve just got to do our job and guard.”

“It is going to be a new challenge for us,” point guard Matt Coleman said. “It would be a challenge to see how we can look for different ways to score and defend.”

Living by the longball is Nevada’s M.O. It could very well make the difference between winning and losing.

“We have to realize that whenever shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to do a great job of defending people,” Caleb Martin said. “At the end of the day, keeping guys in front of us and learning how to rebound with bigger guys, whether we have to double down and box out, take two guys to box out.”