No. 10 Nevada Wolf Pack rolls over San Jose State
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — The San Jose State Spartans always have a way of brightening a Nevada Wolf Pack season.
The No. 10 Wolf Pack, coming off its first loss of the season, trounced the Spartans, 92-53, in front of a crowd of 10,432 at Lawlor Events Center on Wednesday night. The Pack, 15-1 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West, has now beaten the Spartans eight games in a row, 20 of the last 21 and 30 of the last 32.
“I didn’t care who we played,” Pack coach Eric Musselman said. “I knew we would win this game because I knew how we would respond (to an 85-58 loss at New Mexico last Saturday).”
The victory over the Spartans also allowed the Wolf Pack to avoid its first two-game losing streak since December 2017 (losing to Texas Tech and TCU).
“We took (the loss) real personal,” said Cody Martin, one of four Pack players in double-figure scoring with 14 points. “It didn’t matter who we played. I felt bad for whoever we played.”
The Spartans, it seemed, corrected all of the Pack’s concerns in one game.
The Wolf Pack rediscovered its offense, scoring its most points in a game in over a month, since a 110-87 win over Massachusetts on Nov. 23. And the Pack also regained its shooting touch in the second half, connecting on 23-of-36 shots from the floor and 11-of-18 3-pointers in the second 20 minutes to finish at 52 percent (38-of-73) from the floor and 13-of-34 (38 percent) on threes for the game.
“In the second half we played like all of us are hopeful we can play offensively,” said Musselman of the Pack’s 60 points after halftime.
Caleb Martin also found his shooting touch in the second half, draining six 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 23 points. Martin was 7-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-6 on threes in the second half.
“When he catches fire like that we’re really good,” said Musselman, who’s now 51-5 at home since he took over the Pack program. “We’re kind of hard to beat when he’s making shots.”
Martin had made just 18 of his last 75 3-point attempts over the past seven-plus games before finding the range in the second half.
“It was all mental,” Martin said. “I’m really hard on myself when I know I’m not playing like I am capable of playing. I’m just inside my own head.”
Martin was 1-of-7 from the floor in the first half and missed all five of his 3-point attempts, including one air ball.
“I think that’s the first air ball I’ve ever had on a 3-pointer since I’ve been here,” Martin said.
He didn’t think about air balls in the second half.
“I just went out there and was freelancing,” Martin said. “I just felt I couldn’t play any worse than I was and it was all up from there. My teammates kept supporting me. I could go 1-for-78 and they would still tell me to keep shooting. They know what I’m capable of.”
The Wolf Pack dominated the overmatched Spartans to start the game, taking a 20-5 lead after just nine minutes.
A 3-pointer by Jordan Caroline on the first shot of the game set the tone as the Pack scored the game’s first seven points. The 6-foot-7 senior, who finished with 19 points, also scored inside for the 20-5 lead with 11:12 to go in the half.
Corey Henson, making his first start of the season, had a layup and a 3-pointer in the first five minutes. Freshman Jordan Brown, also making his first start, connected on a short jumper in the lane off the glass for a 5-0 Pack lead and had a dunk for an 18-5 lead. Cody Martin also had a pair of back-to-back layups for a 16-5 Pack lead.
Henson would finish with 15 points, seven assists and four steals. The senior also had three threes.
“I knew I had to step up to the opportunity,” said Henson, who previous scoring high this season was eight points against California Baptist in the fourth game of the year. “It’s been a battle this year. I’m happy I got to show more of what I’m capable of.”
The Spartans’ offense finally showed some life midway through the first half. Brae Ivey, the only Spartan in double figures with 10 points, scored on a layup and hit a 3-pointer and Noah Baumann also drained a three as the Spartans went on an 8-0 run to cut the Pack lead to 20-13 with 7:45 to go in the half.
A Trey Porter block led to a short jumper in the lane by Cody Martin for a 22-13 Pack lead. Porter didn’t score in the game in 21 minutes but did have a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Everybody who got in the game did something real well,” said Musselman, who played eight players between 11 and 32 minutes each.
Henson had a layup and a 3-pointer to start the second half as the Pack took a 41-32 lead with 15:44 to play.
The Wolf Pack, now 8-0 at home this season, then outscored the Spartans 32-6 over a stretch of just more than seven minutes to take a 73-38 lead with 7:14 to play.
That was also when Caleb Martin rediscovered his jump shot. Martin connected on six 3-pointers over a stretch of just nine-plus minutes as the Pack took an 84-43 lead with 4:23 to go. His last three 3-pointers were over a stretch of just 93 seconds.
Martin said his confidence soared after he made his first 3-pointer. “That lets you know the ball could go in,” he said. “It lets you know there’s not a cap on the basket.”
“I knew all it would take is for him to make one and he’d be good,” Cody Martin said of his twin brother. “And once he gets going it’s over (for the opposition).”
Everyone in silver and blue, it seemed, joined in the 3-point party in the second half. Caroline connected from long distance for a 55-34 lead with 10:55 to go, Jazz Johnson hit one for a 58-36 lead with 10:24 to go and Henson gave the Pack a 69-38 lead with 8:08 to go with his second three of the game.
The Wolf Pack’s 60 points in the second half are its most in any half this year.
“It’s just about us being confident,” Cody Martin said. “We were in a slump shooting the three ball but we’re starting to get out of it.”
“These guys have a green light,” Musselman said. “Without a green light we don’t open up the game like we did. We would have probably only won by 10 or 12 points.”
The 39-point victory is the Pack’s biggest since a 119-70 win over Fresno Pacific on Dec. 9, 2015, in Musselman’s ninth game at Nevada. It’s also the Pack’s biggest win over a Mountain West opponent since joining the conference in 2012-13.
“The threes really opened things up for us,” Musselman said.
The Wolf Pack will go back on the road for a pair of games at Fresno State (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and Boise State (Jan. 15, 6 p.m.) before returning to Lawlor Events Center to meet Air Force (Jan. 19) and Colorado State (Jan. 23).