Nevada Wolf Pack notes: Muss: ‘These guys never quit’
ATLANTA — The one thing Nevada coach Eric Musselman has always appreciated is the effort his team has showed this season, and Thursday was no exception.
Nevada showed plenty of fight in its 69-68 Sweet 16 loss to Loyola of Chicago, and the coach praised his team for that.
“I’m just proud of how these guys never quit,” he said. “We lost tonight. There’s some things that we could have probably done better, but having said that, you know, in life, it’s about how hard, whatever you’re doing, and how much enthusiasm you have for it and your effort level. This team played really, really hard all year, and that’s what I’m the most proud of.”
The loss ended the season at least one game earlier than many expected, and one win away from setting a school record for wins plus an Elite 8 appearance. It also meant saying goodbye to seniors Hallice Cooke, Elijah Foster and Kendall Stephens.
“This is exactly what we set out to do,” Cooke said. “The code (to the locker room) was 16-16, and we accomplished that. This (Loyola) was the best team we played all year. We can hold our heads high.”
Cooke, who started the last portion of the season after Lindsey Drew went down with a season-ending injury, scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and had an assist and steal in his 25-minute stint.
The other two seniors, Foster and Stephens, didn’t score. Foster played just three minutes. Stephens, however, was 0-for-8 in 26 minutes.
“We had a great group of seniors that are always there,” Jordan Caroline said. “The work we put in during the off-season until now is just … it’s a lifetime experience.”
Kendall Stephens suffered a season-worst 0-for-8 effort from 3-point land, and the Pack was just 7-for-27 from beyond the arc as a team.
It was the second time in the last four games that Stephens failed to hit a 3-pointer. He went 0-for-3 against San Diego State. Prior to the SDSU game, he had a streak of 11 straight games with at least two 3-pointers.
Unfortunately, he picked the worst time to have his worst game of the season. He wasn’t even on the floor for Nevada’s final possession.
Stephens, Cooke and Cody Martin went a combined 0-for-12 from beyond the arc.
Loyola team chaplain Sister Jean actually had Loyola losing in the round of 16 on one of her brackets, and going all the way in the other.
Obviously one was filled out with her heart and the other with her head.
“We are going to try to keep that one going (winning the) title,” Loyola freshman center Cameron Krutwig said. “She has been great, obviously. She is just blowing up with all the media and stuff like that. It is normal for us to have her around all the time at these games. It just helps us, and it’s a cool feeling.”
STRATEGY NOT USED?
With Loyola leading 66-65 and 36 seconds left, Nevada had two fouls to give, but failed to do it, and Marques Townes’ buried the critical 3-pointer with 7 seconds left.
It was a calculated gamble on Nevada’s part, because if the Pack gets a stop, it would have enough time to go down and score. If you keep fouling until Loyola got into the bonus, the most you give up in that situation is two points and you trail by three at the most with the last shot.
Loyola’s duo of Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer have played together since grade school.
At Blue Valley Northwest High, the duo led their school to a 94-6 record and two state titles.
Now, they are one game away from the Final Four. They have a great connection on the floor.
“They do everything together,” said teammate Marques Townes in a recent Chicago Tribune article. “They are like brothers. They should be brothers, actually. The connection they have on the court is amazing.”