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Rams Dropped 98-82 by #6 Nevada

February 8, 2019

First of all, let’s get one thing straight.

The final score flattered Nevada.

But it sure didn’t have that feel way early as the Wolf Pack exploded to a 36-20 lead after only 11 minutes. That came on the heels of a 58-25 second half just two weeks prior in Reno. The visitors were having their way inside and out and it was only some pretty solid offensive execution that was keeping the Rams on the same planet.

That lead fluctuated up and down through the next 7 minutes as Nevada’s Jordan Caroline was on his way to a 30-point first half, shooting 6-6 from beyond the arc. The Rams trailed 50-34 but closed on a 7-2 run, sending themselves into the locker room trailing only 52-41.

I say only because you’d be hard-pressed to find fault in anything Nevada. A Sweet Sixteen team last season, this year’s edition has the look of a potential Final Four squad when they are clicking.

The first 7 minutes of the second half featured the finest basketball displayed by the Rams in recent memory. They were running their halfcourt offense to perfection and, led by Center Nico Carvacho, were scoring regularly at the rim. They were creating open perimeter looks and nailing them. An upset looked possible as the Rams closed the Nevada lead to 67-64 with just under 13 minutes remaining. Counting the last couple of minutes in the first half, the Rams were on a 30-17 run over those 10 minutes.

But Nevada would have no part of playing the upset victim. They had cooled down from the perimeter so their attention turned to attacking the rim. Led by Caleb Martin and Caroline, that they did. The Wolf Pack managed to expand the lead and hold the Rams at bay.

They led 88-80 inside of two minutes and then a series of strange officiating calls took the luster off the game. A Nevada three-ball glanced off the rim to the left. Away from the play CSUs Hyron Edwards was tangled with Caroline. Somehow the 230 lb Caroline went to the floor after minor contact with the 170 lb Edwards. Whistle. Followed by a video review resulting in a flagrant foul on Edwards. What should have been a no call resulted in a pair of Nevada free throws and the ball.

That was immediately followed by a marginal foul call on a corner three-ball by Nevada’s Jazz Johnson. Edwards, still upset by the previous flagrant call, was finally whistled for a technical foul for jabbering. Five more free throws and the Wolf Pack has iced the game at 94-80 with a minute remaining.

The Rams had given it their all but didn’t have what it takes to score a famous victory. They had their chance to end possessions on missed perimeter shots by Nevada but failed to block out the shooter a remarkable three times in the second half. You can’t give three extra possessions to a team as good as Nevada! The Rams closed out poorly on a pair of three-balls and fouled a 90% FT shooter – twice!

Bottom line is that if you count the points given up on those plays, you essentially get the margin of Nevada’s victory.

Nevada’s Caroline would finish the game with 40 points and 12 rebounds, breaking the all-time MWC double-double record shared by Andrew Bogut and Kawhi Leonard. Heady company indeed. Caroline is on his way to an MWC Player of the Year award. Caleb Martin added 25 points. Carvacho played one of his best games ever, scoring 24 and grabbing 17 boards.

Other Stuff

The last bucket of the game was a Nevada dunk off an alley-oop pass between the Martin twins. It raised more than eyebrows because it came in the final 20 seconds when teams usually dribble out the game. Boos rained from the Moby faithful and the handshake line was a bit chilly as a result. My takeaway you ask…

Water under the bridge stuff.

Consider the fact that Nevada’s Caleb Martin was still sprinting the floor in the 40th minute of a hard-fought game. He was on the floor for all 40 of them! Maybe the play was bad form but it was Nevada in a nutshell.

The Wolf Pack play the game the way it is supposed to be played!

They go hard and the play together for 40 minutes. They don’t take possessions off on either end of the floor. One play in the second half really stood out for me. Cody Martin was stripped of the ball in the front court and CSUs Kris Martin had only Nevada’s Johnson to beat. He rose to the rim and was was rejected. Not by Johnson but by Cody Martin. Who had gotten up and sprinted back to immediately correct his mistake. He didn’t wallow on the ground in misery. Earlier in the half, CSU’s Edwards had turned the ball over in the forecourt and put his head down in misery. Seconds later Martin sprinted by him with the ball on the way to a layup.

Nevada is a collection of experienced and mature athletes. That play the game. Eric Musselman has assembled a collection of very good players and made them a great team. If they stay healthy and get a good draw, they are Final Four material.

Officiating

No need to get down in the weeds. I think it’s hard to be good when one of the officials is a dinosaur living off cronyism. Tom O’Neill is everything thats wrong these days with college officiating. A has-been making great paychecks because of his connections, not because he’s any good. They have three refs for a reason. When two are forced to do the work of three it makes for some interesting stuff.

State Pride

CSU started a pair of Colorado players – senior JD Paige and freshman Adam Thistlewood. Both struggled in the first half and both came on on the second half. Paige finished with 13, 4, and 4. Thistlewood looked completely lost and overmatched in the first half but came on the second half to finish with 10 points. His confidence and maturity are beyond most freshmen and his understanding of how to move on to the next play is exemplary.

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