LAS VEGAS – Three games in three days.
That’s the task that awaits regular-season champ Nevada when it meets Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Basketball Championships.
Tip-off is set for noon at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
Potentially three straight days would be new for the Pack, which played back-to-back days in Las Vegas at the South Point Hoops Classic and at the Great Alaska Shootout.
And, the Pack figures it has to win all three otherwise it will be playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament. Prognosticators have said throughout the season the MW is a one-bid league this year.
“It’s unique,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said earlier this week. “College players aren’t used to play back-to-back-to-back. Players need to get off their feet as quick as they can, and use any free time for mental preparation.
“And the coaches have to devise a simple enough game plan, but complicated enough to have an effect on the game (opposition).”
Musselman said the team went back to “training camp” this week.
“We worked on our shell defense and we worked on pick and roll coverage, and not just the two guys involved,” Musselman said. “The nail guy coming from the weak side and the bottom guy rotating over.
“From an offensive execution standpoint, we want to continue to get better. We have added a couple of late-game plays that we didn’t have.”
Nevada has been clicking on all cylinders.
Cam Oliver, Jordan Caroline and Marcus Marshall recorded double-doubles in the title-clinching win over Colorado State. Oliver had 29 points and 17 rebounds, Marshall had 18 points and 10 assists, and Caroline had 18 points and 15 rebounds. All four averaged double figures in scoring last week.
Marshall has regained his early season form, and he’s one of the keys to today’s game according to Utah State head coach Tim Duryea.
Duryea, whose team split the two regular-season games with Nevada, believes the key will be rebounding. Each team won the rebound battle on its home floor. The Aggies held a 50-36 edge in Logan, and the Pack had a 45-29 advantage in Reno.
“We’ve got to rebound the ball,” Duryea said. “The second time we played them, I didn’t think we played that poorly at their place, but got killed on the boards. We gave ourselves no chance to win, just in that area.
“And so obviously that’s the biggest thing we’ve got to talk about and do going into the game is we have got to rebound the ball, which we did in Logan. We did a really good job on Marshall, and we rebounded the ball.”
Marshall, the Pack’s talented senior guard, went 1-for-12, 0-for-7 on 3s in the 74-57 loss at Utah State. He bounced back with a 5-for-11 effort, 5-for-8 on 3s in the 11-point win in Reno.
“He’s an aggressive guy,” Duryea said. “He makes tough shots. He takes tough shots. We did a good job in Logan of making almost every look he took be tough, and he just missed them. We gave him a couple of open looks. We lost him a couple of times in Reno and he made us pay.
“He’s a guy you can’t really stop from taking shots because he takes guarded shots. He’s just a talented enough guy to be able to make those shots. And that’s a pretty rare guard that can take that tough a shot and shoot the percentage he does. We’ll do the best we can on him. We hope he misses a few.”
And, if Marshall misfires, the Aggies need to keep Caroline and Oliver off of the offensive glass.
Utah State is 2-10 when it gets outrebounded.
NOTES: Utah State is 3-0 in first-round MW games and the Aggies have played the 8-9 game all three times … Jalen Moore has scored in double figures 29 times this year and 90 times in his career … Sophomore Quinn Taylor played with a heart monitor recently against UNLV, and was cleared on Tuesday morning to come to Vegas for the tournament … After scoring 29 points against Colorado State, Oliver is just one point short of 1,000 in his career, becoming the ninth player to hit 1,000 in his first two years with the Pack (27th overall) … The Pack is riding a hot streak into the Mountain West Tournament, having won six straight games to close out conference play … For the first time since 1993, three Wolf Pack players recorded a double-double in the same game (CSU) in Oliver, Caroline and Marshall … The Wolf Pack has surged to 35 in the RPI rankings. Nevada is 7-4 against top-100 opponents and 16-6 against teams in the top 200.