San Francisco holds off Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada Wolf Pack Notebook: Stephens living behind the line
LAS VEGAS — It was certainly not the way Nevada wanted to end its nonconference schedule.
The Pack missed three shots, two of them lay-ups, in the final 27 seconds, and also fell victim to two controversial non-calls in a 66-64 loss to USF in the finals of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic Saturday night at Orleans Arena.
The loss dropped Nevada to 11-3 heading into Wednesday night’s Mountain West opener at Fresno State.
Three losses by 12 points. Save for a call here or there, Nevada could very easily be undefeated. Right now that that is of little solace.
“It definitely does tarnish it a little bit,” said Kendall Stephens, who finished with 14 points. “We have to use this to fuel us.”
“It’s not bad,” Caleb Martin said. “We just could have done better. We could easily have been undefeated.”
Simply put, it was a game that Nevada could have, and should have, won.
Leading 64-63 with 46 seconds left, Caleb Martin came down and had his shot blocked by Nate Renfro with 27 seconds left. The ball went out of bounds, and after the inbounds pass, Martin misfired on a jump shot. The ball was tipped out toward the left sideline. Stephens gave chase, fell over a courtside table, and saved the ball.
Instead of clock stoppage and USF getting the ball around midcourt, the Dons’ Jordan Ratinho got the ball and he buried a 3-pointer to give the Dons a 66-64 lead with 6.4 left.
“I should have taken the ball out of bounds with me,” Stephens said. “It was just a split-second call (on my part).”
Ratinho finished with 11, one of five USF players in double figures.
Nevada called timeout to set up a final play.
Caleb Martin took it coast-to-coast, and when he was cut off, he slipped a pass to Lindsey Drew. There appeared to be contact, and Drew’s game-tying attempt was off the mark.
Musselman stormed the court to argue, while his stunned players looked on.
“We didn’t play well,” Musselman said. “We dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half. We couldn’t make shots. We definitely have to be a lot better.”
“I was 100 percent sure that I got fouled (on the blocked shot),” Martin said. “I said something to the official and he said he might have missed it. You can’t do that. We came out flat and waited too long. We came out flat and waited too long to get anything going.”
The first couple of minutes was reminiscent of the Illinois State game when Nevada fell behind 9-0.
USF came out and hit its first three shots en route to a quick 8-0 lead . Nevada didn’t panic, outscoring USF 16-6 over the next eight minutes to grab a 16-14 lead on a lay-up by Stephens with 9:37 left.
Stephens kick-started the rally with a 3-pointer from the right corner, and Cody Martin followed with a driving lay-up and a floater.
USF didn’t wilt under the Pack’s pressure, however.
The Dons put together a 14-2 run of its own to make it 28-18 before Josh Hall ended the bleeding with a shot in the key.
Triples by Souley Boum and Ratinho started the USF surge, and after Caleb Martin scored, Boum drained two free throws, and Foster made a fast-break lay-up, Matt McCarthy scored on a lay-up and Renfro had a layup.
What didn’t help was Stephens picking up his second foul with 5:57 left in the half, and that helped contribute to eight straight USF points.
USF had eight second-chance points and seven 3-point field goals to open up a 35-26 halftime lead, as Nevada shot just 35.5 percent from the field and got a combined 4-for-15 effort and eight total points from its top two scorers, Martin and Jordan Caroline.
Caroline never got untracked, finishing with just six points on 2-for-12 shooting. He only had four rebounds, by far his worst game in a Nevada uniform .
“We couldn’t make shots, and defensively we have to be a lot better,” Musselman said.
The Dons were able to get enough penetration, and the Pack was helpless to find the Dons’ 3-point shooter. Ratinho and rail-thin Souley Boum both had two from beyond the arc.
“We were overhelping,” Stephens said. “Instead of forcing them to make a tough 2, they got an easy 3.”
Nevada did start the second half with a 10-0 run to take a 36-35 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Stephens and a 4-point play by Caleb Martin, but the Dons had a 7-2 burst to take a 49-46 lead with 8:46 left.
From there, the teams were never separated by more than four points.