Nevada Wolf Pack opens season with 88-64 win against Idaho
Joe Santoro: Believe the hype around the Nevada Wolf Pack
RENO — Caleb Martin has been bothered with a toe injury much of the preseason, but he wasn’t about to miss his first regular season game at Nevada.
Martin scored a career-high 26 points, including 21 in the first half, to lead the Wolf Pack to an 88-64 win over Idaho in the season opener Friday before a crowd of 8,457 at Lawlor Events Center.
Wednesday after the signing-day press conference, coach Eric Musselman told the media that he wasn’t sure about Martin’s status, and much would depend on how he practiced the rest of the week.
“Caleb practiced about 70 percent on Monday, and he tried to go on Tuesday,” Musselman said. “He didn’t do anything at the shootaround today.”
When Musselman called Martin’s number 7 1/2 minutes into the game, the 6-7 junior transfer from North Carolina State was ready, pain or no pain.
“I told him before the game if he needed me, I’d be ready to play,” Caleb Martin said. “I thought he would put me in to get my feet wet. It (the game) was awesome after sitting out a year and playing in front of a crowd like that.
“It’s amazing to play with no restrictions. I can play like myself. At NC State, we had so many great players. I knew my role. I always felt like I could do a little more.”
That is why the Martins opted to transfer to Nevada, and North Carolina State’s loss is definitely Nevada’s gain.
Caleb Martin gave the crowd plenty to cheer about when he lifted a disjointed Nevada offense on his back and carried it to a 43-30 halftime lead.
He entered the game with 12:43 left in the half and Nevada trailing 15-11. He converted a three-point play to cut the Idaho lead top 15-14.
Idaho went ahead 20-16, and that’s when Martin started to go off. He dropped in two free throws to make it 20-18, and in the next 4 1/2 minutes, he tallied three 3-pointers and three free throws to spark Nevada to a 35-26 lead with 3:07 left in the half. He would score twice more to put the Pack up by 13 at the break.
He had 21 in the first half, tying his then career-high from NC State. His outburst came at a great time, because Kendall Stephens and Josh Hall, who had carried the team in the exhibition games with their 3-point shooting, were having off nights.
“Caleb was going to play,” said Cody Martin, Caleb’s twin brother. “He wasn’t going to sit out his first game. He’s hard-headed.”
Cody Martin played just as big a role in the win. Though he had a career-best 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the floor and 5-for-8 from the line, it was his work on the defensive end that got rave reviews from Musselman.
Cody Martin had the main defensive assignment on Idaho’s Victor Sanders, who was held to 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting overall, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
Sanders, Idaho’s top player, had five in the first half and nine in the second half.
Nevada certainly made his life miserable, and that was a huge part of the game.
“With Cody and Lindsey out there, we are so long at the guard spots,” Musselman said. “I thought the defense on Sanders … no made 3s and we caused five turnovers. I didn’t want him to get one open look. It was a great job.”
“The coaches challenged me, and I challenged myself,” Cody Martin said. “We went through a lot of preparation. I don’t think anybody prepares like us; what he does and what he likes to do.”
Idaho didn’t go away in the second half, though, closing the gap to 57-52 with 11:42 left on a lay-up by Arkadiy Mkrtychyan, a 3-pointer by Chad Sherwood and a jump shot by Nate Sherwood.
Nevada took control with a 21-9 surge over the next 7 1/2 minutes to extend the lead to 78-61 with 3:11 left.
Jordan Caroline had two three-point plays in a span of 43 seconds to jump-start the surge. Cody Martin also converted a three-point play and a fast-break lay-up.
Caleb Martin had another 3-pointer and a bucket late in the explosion.
NOTES: Nevada wore camouflage uniforms in honor of Veterans Day … Nevada was outrebounded by four and shot an ice cold 7-for-23 from 3-point territory … Nevada had 40 points in the paint and 11 second-chance points.