Nevada Wolf Pack notes: Josh Hall provides spark
Nevada Wolf Pack downs UNLV, faces San Diego State
LAS VEGAS – Nevada was struggling in the first half, badly in need of a spark, and it came from sophomore Josh Hall.
Hall scored 16 points, eight in each half, to spark Nevada to a hard-fought 79-74 win over in-state rival UNLV Thursday afternoon in the Mountain West quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Hall has eight double-figure scoring games this year, and three have come in the last couple of weeks. He had 12 in the home win over Colorado State and then scored 10 last week against UNLV.
“We knew they were going to play zone, and I knew they would back off me a little bit because that’s what they did a week ago,” Hall said. “I was playing cat and mouse with (Brandon) McCoy.”
The 6-7 sophomore scored on floaters. He scored on pull-up jump shots. He scored on follow shots. He was able to find the openings in the zone, and he did a good job on shot selection.
“Josh is so good at finding open gaps,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “And yesterday when we practiced after watching UNLV play zone, we talked about playing cat and mouse on the baseline and being a sneaky cutter, and he was our best sneaky cutter tonight. And he has been, even dating back to, for whatever reason, his freshman year. He was a guy that finds the open gaps, and you don’t need to call a play for him. He was ready to play.”
Hall had five points in a 34-second stretch of the first half to pull Nevada to 30-28. His jump shot with 6:30 left gave Nevada a 66-57 lead, and he added another jump shot with 5:46 left to maintain a nine-point lead. And he capped the win with two free throws with 0.5 remaining.
“It (Hall’s play) was crucial,” said Jordan Caroline. “Especially to start the second half, he really kick-started (us). He came in playing well. He was moving the ball. He was finishing well. And he really helped to be a mismatch with our front court.
“He doesn’t play outside himself, I think that’s what winning teams need,” Kendall Stephens said. “He’s like a glue guy that we have. And he was definitely a difference maker, and I think he was really the reason why we won.”
SCHOOL MARK FOR STEPHENS
Kendall Stephens already had the MW record for made 3-pointers, but on Thursday when he went 5-for-19 from long distance and passed Marcus Marshall for the Nevada record.
Stephens now has 118, and he can certainly build on that with a few games left. Marshall finished his one-year career with 115. The 118 made overall is second-most in a season in the MW behind Jimmer Fredette’s 124 during the 2010-11 season.
Stephens filled up the stat sheet in other categories. He had a career and season-best five blocked shots, and he had five rebounds, a Nevada best.
“It didn’t surprise us, it shocked us,” Musselman said. “For him to have five blocks, somebody else might have blocked him. He’s got great length and he used it today. We backed off some guys and they kept driving into him, and he was there.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Third-year head coach Eric Musselman is 79-27 at Nevada…The 27 wins is tied with the 2005-06 team for the fifth-most in a season …It’s the 12th road win of the season, breaking the mark of 11 held by the 2004-05 team … Jordan Caroline posted his 26th double-double, and Nevada is 25-1 when he does that. He has 12 double-doubles on the season. The 26 double-doubles is tied with Dario Hunt for the eighth-most in school history.
The San Diego State Aztecs will play Nevada today at 6 after dispatching Fresno State 64-52. The Aztecs beat Nevada 79-74 at Viejas Arena on March 3. The Aztecs, who have won seven straight and eight of their last 10, were led by Trey Kell’s 16 points.
The bottom part of the bracket is set. Utah State knocked off Boise State 78-75, and New Mexico outlasted Wyoming 85-75. Winners play Friday at 8:30.