No. 8 Nevada Wolf Pack top Boise State, 93-73 in Mountain West action
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO — The Nevada Wolf Pack didn’t need any late-game heroics to beat the Boise State Broncos this time around.
The No. 8 Wolf Pack trounced the Broncos 93-73 in front of a Saturday afternoon crowd of 11,207 at Lawlor Events Center to move to 21-1 overall on the season and a Mountain West-best 8-1.
What a difference a month makes.
The last time the two teams met the Wolf Pack needed a 3-pointer from Cody Martin to beat the Broncos 72-71 in Boise on Jan. 5. The rematch on Saturday saw the Pack lead for the final 37 minutes of the game.
“We wanted to redeem ourselves,” said Wolf Pack senior Caleb Martin, who scored a game-high 30 points on five 3-pointers.
“We won the game at their place but it wasn’t the way we wanted to win,” said Cody Martin, who had 21 points, seven assists and four steals.
The Wolf Pack did what it wanted to do against the Broncos on Saturday, shooting 56 percent (35-of-63) from the floor overall and 46 percent (13-of-28) on threes. The Pack also had 22 assists and just four turnovers and had five players score in double figures.
“I think we’re playing real good basketball right now,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said.
The game in Boise on Jan. 5 clearly motivated the Wolf Pack on Saturday, Musselman said.
“That game was just so uncharacteristic of us,” Musselman said. “We had just 10 assists and 14 turnovers. That’s not who we are. We shared the ball in this game. It’s contagious. If one guys shares it, another guy shares it and then another guy shares it.”
“We were lackadaisical in that other game (at Boise),” Cody Martin said. “We weren’t playing our best basketball there and it came back to bite us.”
The Wolf Pack did all the biting in the rematch. Boise State also shot well (46 percent from the floor and 43 percent on threes) but the Pack seemed to be playing the game at a higher level.
“That’s how we have to be every single night,” Cody Martin said.
The Wolf Pack, which has won seven in a row, has seemingly found another gear lately. Over its last 3 ½ games (the second half against Air Force followed by the entire game against Colorado State, UNLV and Boise State) the Pack has outscored its opponent 327-231.
“I think so,” said Musselman, when asked if this is the best the Pack has played this season. “It’s how we played last season.”
A 12-0 run two minutes into the game helped the Wolf Pack take a 41-30 lead at halftime.
Boise State, now 10-12 overall and 5-4 in the Mountain West, took its only lead of the first half at 3-0 on a 3-pointer by Derrick Alston a minute into the game and then proceeded to miss its next five shots as the Pack took a 12-3 lead.
A dunk by Tre’Shawn Thurman opened the 12-0 run that took less than three minutes. Trey Porter also hit a short jumper and a 3-pointer to go along with a layup by Jordan Caroline and a 3-pointer by Caleb Martin.
The Broncos, though, kept the game close for much of the first half, actually outscoring the Pack 25-20 over a 12-minute stretch to trail just 32-28 with three minutes to go in the half.
Alex Hobbs hit a 3-pointer to cut the Pack lead to 12-7 for Boise’s first field goal in almost five minutes. Justinian Jessup hit a pair of threes in the first half, cutting the Pack leads to 18-12 and 22-18. The Pack, though, answered each time the Broncos got close in the opening half.
Jazz Johnson drained a 3-pointer from the right corner for an 18-9 led and also scored in the lane for a 20-14 lead with seven minutes to go. Cody Martin scored off the glass with his right hand for a 22-15 lead and did the same near the baseline from the left of the lane for a 24-18 lead.
“We just came out with more energy this time against them,” said Johnson, who finished with 12 points. “We were a lot more focused.”
Caleb Martin, who led all scorers with 14 points at the break, hit a 3-pointer from the left elbow for a 27-20 Pack lead and also converted a pair of free throws for a 32-26 lead with just over three minutes to go in the half.
The Pack, which has now won 14 games in a row at home dating back to last season (11-0 this year), then separated itself from the Broncos once again, going on a 9-2 run over the final three minutes of the half.
A 3-pointer by Caroline was followed by a steal and a layup by Cody Martin for a 37-28 Pack lead. Caleb Martin followed with a short scoop from in front of the basket for a 39-28 lead and his two free throws with five seconds remaining closed the first-half scoring.
“We’re just so much more efficient when we get the ball in the paint and draw the foul or just kick it back out for a three,” Caleb Martin said. “The coaches show us the stats on that every game and they have challenged us to do that.”
The Wolf Pack flooded Lawlor Events Center with 3-pointers to start the second half, making five over the first seven minutes to take a 62-48 lead. Tre’Shawn Thurman and Cody Martin each had two of the five to go along with one from Johnson. The five threes took place over a span of just five minutes.
Martin’s 21 points on Saturday is his most since he scored 25 against Cincinnati in last year’s NCAA tournament. He was 8-of-11 from the floor against the Broncos.
“I tell him all the time that he can’t just shoot the ball six or seven times a game,” Caleb Martin said. “He’s too good of an offensive player to not shoot it at least 10 times a game. We’re a lot better as a team when he’s aggressive.”
Boise State, now 0-18 in their school history against teams ranked in the Top 10, wouldn’t disappear right away. Jessup and Alston each had a pair of threes as the Broncos cut the Pack lead to single digits (62-53) with 12:14 to play.
The Wolf Pack offense, though, then exploded for seven points in a span of just 48 seconds. The 7-0 run came on a three-point play from Caleb Martin, a dunk from Cody Martin and a layup from Johnson for a comfortable Pack lead of 69-53 lead with 11 minutes to go.
The Wolf Pack simply never let the Broncos up for air over the final 10 minutes of the game. Cody Martin converted a three-point play for a 74-57 lead with 10:08 to go, Caroline had a dunk for a 76-59 lead with 8:44 left, Caleb Martin drained a pair of threes just 33 seconds apart for an 82-64 lead with 6:45 to play and Caroline had another dunk for an 84-67 lead with 4:46 left.
“We just kind of want to step on people’s necks if we can,” Caleb Martin said. “We kind of want to give a no mercy mentality to the other team and win by 20 if we can. We know if they could beat us by 20, they would.”
The Wolf Pack has become unbeatable at home during the three-plus years of the Musselman era with 54 victories in 59 games at Lawlor. The Pack has now won 30 of its last 31 home games dating back to the middle of the 2016-17 season.
The Wolf Pack, which will next play at Colorado State on Wednesday, has just four home games remaining this season: New Mexico (Feb. 9), Fresno State (Feb. 23), UNLV (Feb. 27) and San Diego State (March 9).