Showdown is set after Nevada win
SAN JOSE – One game for all the marbles.
That’s what awaits the Nevada men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon after the Pack got past San Jose State, 82-67, Wednesday at The Event Center before a sparse crowd of 2,522.
The win extended Nevada’s record to 24-6 and 13-4 overall. Colorado State, Saturday’s opponent for the MWC regular-season title showdown, is also 13-4 (21-9 overall).
As a player or coach, you can’t ask for anything more.
“Last game; my last game at Lawlor,” said senior D.J. Fenner. “I wouldn’t want to be in any other position. We have to play hard and go in there and win.”
“It is a game for all the marbles,” said sophomore point guard Lindsey Drew. “I’m looking forward to it. We want to be ahead of the pack.”
There was a certain calm among the Nevada players. Their coach was much more hyped.
“I think I was more excited than the players,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman told reporters. “They were a lot more businesslike.”
In short, it was a tale of two halves. The Pack let a 23-point halftime lead get down to 10 before putting the pesky Spartans (14-14, 7-10) away. San Jose State outscored Nevada, 43-35, in the final 20 minutes.
Nevada, after a sluggish start, shot 52 percent in building a 47-24 advantage.
And, it wasn’t Marcus Marshall, Cam Oliver, Fenner or Jordan Caroline leading the way. It was point guard Lindsey Drew who went 4-for-4 from the field, 3-for-3 from beyond the mark, en route to 11 first half points. He finished with 14. Marshall led all scorers with 20. Fenner added 15.
Drew had scored just 12 points in his last six games. He hadn’t reached double figures since scoring 13 in the Jan. 21 loss to Fresno State.
“I just felt confident coming into the game,” Drew said. “Just being aggressive. I just felt really confident.
“We came out and played good basketball. We were getting stops and knocking down our shots.”
Most of Drew’s attempts came when San Jose State left him alone, according to Musselman.
“As the season progresses, teams go under screens or back off of him, and he’s done a good job of getting his feet under him and knocking down threes,” Musselman said.
“We played as good a first half as we have all season. We were locked in defensively, and the ball was really moving offensively.”
Nevada used two big scoring runs to build its big halftime lead. The first was a 19-2 surge over four-plus minutes midway through the half, and then the Pack went on a 10-2 spree late in the first half.
Oliver started the surge with a lay-up, and after he blocked a shot, Marshall converted a three-point play at the other end. After an SJSU miss, Marshall knocked down a 3 to make it 18-5.
Neither team scored over the next two minutes, but a bucket by Leland King II, a trey by Drew and a lay-up by Drew made it 25-7 with 7:44 left. Oliver capped the surge with two straight buckets for a 29-9 edge.
In the 10-2 run, Josh Hall had five points and Drew had a trey. Hall had a season-best 12 rebounds and he finished with seven points in 32 minutes of action.
Defensively, SJSU’s leading scorer, Brandon Clarke, was held to just two shots and no points in the opening half.
“We were locked in defensively,” Musselman said. “We have great respect for him. We shrunk the floor on him. He likes to spin (to his left) and then come back to the right. We took that away. We didn’t do quite as good a job in the second half.”
Clarke scored 13 second-half points, as the Spartans used a 15-5 second-half run to close to 64-54 with 10:54 left in the contest.
Ryan Welage had seven in that spurt and Clarke added four.
The Spartans never got the deficit into single digits, as the Pack got some key scores from Drew, Marshall and Fenner. Marshall had a bucket and four free throws down the stretch, Drew converted a three-point play and Fenner knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 74-59 with 5:21 left.
“I think unconsciously we got complacent,” Fenner said. “I told the team we can’t get complacent.”
Musselman was pleased with the way the team finished, however, and the fact the team posted another double-digit win on the road. Nevada has won its last three road games by an average of 23 a game. An impressive stat to be sure.
Now, the Pack needs to protect its home court again.