Nevada Wolf Pack sets record for best start |

Nevada Wolf Pack sets record for best start

Wire and staff reports

IRVINE, Calif. — It wasn’t easy, but road games rarely are.

Nevada scored 47 second-half points to wipe out a two-point halftime deficit and knock off UC Irvine, 76-65, Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.

The win upped Nevada’s record to 8-0, the best start in school history since the Wolf Pack became a Division I program. The school record is 14 set by the 1951-52 team. The road win was Nevada’s fourth of the season.

“It feels phenomenal,” Nevada assistant coach Gus Argenal said on the post-game radio show. “We’re excited about next week as well.

“It was a complete team effort. We found ways to make it happen even when it’s not pretty. (Irvine coach Russell Turner) did a good job of changing things up.”

Next week starts Tuesday with a road game at Texas Tech, a top-25 team that has just one loss. Saturday, the Pack plays in the Hall of Fame Classic against TCU at the Staples Center.

Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens led the second-half surge. Caroline, who finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, scored 15 in the final 20 minutes, mostly from the inside. Stephens finished with 17 before fouling out. He tied a career high with five 3s, three coming in the second half when he scored 11 points. Nevada went 7-for-13 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.

“At the half, coach (Musselman) talked about moving the ball,” Argenal said.

Trailing 33-29 early in the second half, Nevada outscored Irvine 13-6 over the next 3-plus minutes to take a 42-37 lead with 15:29 left. Stephens dropped in three 3-pointers, Caroline added a putback and Caleb Martin dropped in two free throws. Nevada never trailed again.

Nevada used an 11-2 run to gain a double-digit lead, 56-46. Caroline had a basket and two free throws, Lindsey Drew drained a 3-pointer, and Cody Martin and Stephens each contributed a bucket.

The Anteaters hung around, however, cutting the lead to 64-59 with 5:50 left thanks to a couple of baskets by Eyassu Worku, a putback by Elston Jones and a bucket by John Edgar Jr. A basket by Caleb Martin and another by Caroline stretched the lead to 68-59. Irvine closed to eight moments later, but Caroline dropped in a 3-pointer from the right side to make it 71-60 with 1:32 left, and the Anteaters were done.

“He’s a complete leader,” Argenal said, referring to Caroline, who has scored in double figures in all eight games this year.

For the first time this season, Nevada walked off the court at halftime without the lead. Irvine used a 10-5 surge over the final 4:25 to grab a 31-29 advantage. Irvine had 12 second-chance points compared to zero for the Pack. The Anteaters had a 45-32 edge in rebounding.

“There was a little edge (at the half),” Argenal said. “It will help us down the road.”

Caroline was Nevada’s best player in the opening 20 minutes, scoring nine points on three field goals and three free throws. Five of those points came in the first six-plus minutes, as Nevada grabbed an early 13-6 lead. Nevada actually got it to 18-6 after a 3-pointer by Stephens and a dunk by Cody Martin.

Irvine roared back, scoring 15 of the last 19 points. The surge started with putbacks by Brad Greene, Tommy Rutherford and Max Hazard. Darien Williams scored with 8:14 left to make it 20-12, but a 3-pointer by Edgar Jr., a putback by Elston Jones and another bucket by Edgar Jr. cut the Pack lead to 22-21.

Caroline banked one in to make it 24-21, but a layup by Hazard and a 3-pointer by Evan Leonard gave Irvine its first lead of the game, 26-24, with 3:57 left. Caroline tied it with two free throws, but Irvine scored five straight points for a 31-26 lead before Caleb Martin knocked in a 3-pointer 37 seconds before intermission.