Nevada Wolf Pack tops Texas; Sunday game time set | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Wolf Pack tops Texas; Sunday game time set

By Darrell Moody dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – All week long, Nevada players kept insisting that just making the NCAA Tournament wasn’t enough. The Pack wanted to win; make a run.

Mission accomplished.

Nevada fought back from an early 14-point second-half deficit to force overtime, and then led by Caleb Martin’s nine points, outscored Texas 19-15 in the extra period to grab an 87-83 victory in the first round of the South Regional Friday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.

It was Nevada’s first NCAA Tournament win since it knocked off Creighton, 77-71 in overtime, in a first-round regional game in New Orleans back in 2007. The win earned the Pack an opportunity to play No. 2 Cincinnati on Sunday at 3:10 p.m.

Nevada coach Eric Musselman thought the key was his team being able to play at a faster pace. He said Texas controlled the tempo for the first 30 minutes.

“Once we started driving the ball a little bit more in the second half, I thought that opened up our 3-ball,” Musselman said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the team. We did a much better job in the second half of scrapping around and trying to get loose balls and really proud of the job our team did of taking care of the ball. These guys did a great job, only have seven turnovers in a game that we score 87 points.

“Again, we didn’t play very well, but just the ball movement in the second half when you look at the stat sheet and you see Cody’s assists, Caleb’s assists, Jordan Caroline at the center spot to have five assists. I mean, I thought we really, really shared the basketball.”

The Pack’s great comeback left Texas stunned. The Pack went 6-for-6 from the field in the extra period, including Caleb Martin’s three 3-pointers.

“It’s a devastating loss,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s a terrible feeling right now. Nevada deserves a ton of credit. They made some huge, huge, huge shots. In the second half; in overtime. They are a really good team.

“Obviously we put ourselves in position early in the second half to take the game (40-26). We didn’t play with enough aggressiveness down the stretch. I thought they were the most aggressive team, and that gave them an edge.”

This wasn’t one for the faint of heart. There were more twists and turns late in regulation and overtime than the scariest rollercoaster ever invented.

Nevada trailed 64-59 with 4:30 left, and went onto outscore Texas, 9-4, down the stretch. Jordan Caroline started the surge with a key 3-pointer to make it 64-62, and then he made the game-tying free throw with 3.8 left in the game.

Texas turned the ball over after Caroline’s made free throw, giving Nevada a chance to win in regulation with 1.6 left. The ball ended up in Caleb Martin’s hands, but his shot was off the mark, and he was knocked to the floor, but no foul was called.

“We had two options,” Musselman said. “1A was the shot we got. If we get close again, we’ll probably run something pretty similar. The other one was Kendall (Stephens) running the baseline and he was open as well. You know you just want guys that are playing well and that you have good confidence in to take a shot. I thought he got a really good look. It didn’t fall. No big deal.”

Just getting to the overtime period seemed to give the Pack a new lease on life, and Nevada didn’t waste it.

The Longhorns did grab a 77-73 lead 1-minute 47-seconds into the extra period thanks to a four-point play by Kerwin Roach.

Caroline, who had fouled Mo Bamba out of the game late in regulation, scored on a flush to make it 77-75, and after Roach missed a lay-up, Caleb Martin buried his second 3-pointer of overtime to give Nevada a 78-77 lead. Martin buried another triple to extend the lead to 81-77.

Martin finished with 18, one of five Nevada players in double figures. Kendall Stephens led the team with 22. Cody Martin and Josh Hall each had 15, and Jordan Caroline finished with 14.

“Honestly, I felt looser,” Caleb Martin said. “I felt like the regulation, you know, regular regulation, I just played like coach said. I felt like I was playing tight. I was probably a little nervous.”

Texas trimmed the lead to 83-80, but Nevada got free throws from Caroline and Hall to lead 85-83 with 22 seconds left. Texas fouled Stephens, who drove the final spike into Texas by making both free throws.

Musselman admitted Bamba’s absence made things easier. Dylan Ostekowski has size, but not quite the length or shot-blocking ability Bamba has.

“He had such a big impact on our dribble drives and stuff,” Musselman said. “I thought Jordan did a great job of getting into his body on dribble penetration in the second half.”

The second half and overtime wiped out the disappointment of a 26-point first half.

“We might have played a little tight in that first half, and I think that the guys started to settle in in the second half, “ Musselman said. “Once we started knocking down some 3s, you know, and, again, the pace of the play, I mean, for us to score 26 points at the half is frustrating for us. “