Texas poses matchup problem for Nevada Wolf Pack
NEVADA (27-7) VS. TEXAS (19-14)
What: NCAA South Regional
When: Friday, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Texas coach Shaka Smart spent much of his Monday teleconference singing the praises of Nevada’s basketball team.
“They are a great offensive team, and we’re not,” said Smart, whose No. 10 Longhorns meet the No. 7 Wolf Pack on Friday at 1:30 p.m., in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. “We are better some nights than others.
“They can put five guys out there that are all 6-6 or 6-7. It will be a challenge. They run some great stuff. He (Eric Musselman) is a phenomenal coach. I coached at Akron with Keith Dambrot, and he always talked about Eric’s father. Their spacing offensively is phenomenal.”
No doubt Nevada can score the ball on the perimeter. The team averages 41 percent from 3 and 48 overall.
Hallice Cook has hit almost 49 percent from 3, and can be deadly from either corner. Kendall Stephens shoots it from long distance at 44 percent, and Caleb Martin shoots 41 percent. Jordan Caroline and Josh Hall are both over 30 percent.
Conversely, Texas has struggled at times, shooting around 40 percent overall and only 31 percent from beyond the arc. And, the Longhorns shoot just 67 percent from the charity stripe.
The Longhorns are gritty, however, and they play solid defense, holding teams to 68 points a game.
Smart has a decision to make defensively. He has 6-11 Mo Bamba in the middle, and he also has 6-9 Dylan Ostekowski and 6-9 Jericho Sims.
If Smart is concerned about perimeter defense, he may only play one or two of the big guys at the same time in an effort to put shorter, quicker players on Nevada’s athletic group.
“If they play two bigs at once, we could use that as a mismatch,” said Caleb Martin, who also admitted that two bigs at one time could also spell trouble for Nevada.
Nevada was out-rebounded a combined 84-59 in its MW Tournament games last week against UNLV and San Diego State.
This game will come down to limiting Texas’ second-chance opportunities.
“We have to figure out a game plan,” Musselman said. “I thought we did a really good job on Brandon McCoy three times. I’m not comparing players whatsoever. They have to match up as well.”
McCoy scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first meeting, but he was hampered by foul trouble. He had double-doubles in the next two meetings, 19-17 in the 101-75 Pack win, and 12 points and 14 rebounds in the 79-74 loss to Nevada last week in the MW Tournament.
Bomba has had a toe injury, and he missed several games down the stretch. He played 14 minutes in the Longhorns’ last conference tournament game. He averages a double-double per game at 13 and 10.
Jordan Caroline could give Bomba some problems with his strength. At 6-11 and 195, Bomba could me muscled around a bit, and Caroline is a ferocious inside player who won’t back down.
Texas, like Nevada, has also overcome adversity. The Longhorns held a meeting in mid-February, and things seemed to have gotten better since then. The meeting came on the heels of a third straight Big 12 loss that dropped Texas to 5-8.
“After the Baylor game, people just spoke their mind,” freshman point guard Matt Coleman told the Austin Statesman newspaper. “We just had to be real with each other at that point, because it was a frustrating time losing three in a row. You knew something needed to be changed.
This is the second time these teams have met in the NCAAs.
On March 17, 2005, Nevada grabbed a 61-57 win in Indianapolis in an 8-9 matchup.
Kevinn Pinkney led Nevada with 15 points, Mo Charlo added 12, Ramon Sessions 11 and Nick Fazekas added 10.
Nevada went on to lose 71-59 to top-ranked Illinois two days later.