Nevada Wolf Pack overcomes slow start to beat Air Force
Nevada overcame another slow start to knock off Air Force, 86-75, Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The win gives Nevada its second 4-0 start since joining the conference for the 2012-13 season. The 2013-14 team under David Carter also started 4-0.
The Wolf Pack improved to 15-3 overall.
The fourth win proved to be one of the toughest. Nevada had trailed just 2-minutes 40-seconds in wins over Fresno, New Mexico and Wyoming. Against the Falcons, Nevada trailed nearly the entire first half.
You can blame it on the early start (11 a.m. Nevada time) or maybe the Pack overlooked the Falcons, who entered the game winless in conference.
“We are going to get everybody’s best shot, and you have to come out be ready to play, and obviously we weren’t judging by the score,” said Johnny Jones, Nevada’s associate head coach, on the Pack’s postgame radio show. “Coach (Musselman) said you have to go through it to get to it.
“Air Force did a great job at the beginning. They defended us well early.”
As they have a few times this year, the Wolf Pack used a late 20-8 first-half scoring surge to wipe out an 11-point deficit and take a 41-40 lead at the intermission.
The Falcons, who hit 13 of their first 20 shots, led 32-21 with 6:46 left in the half. Nevada’s offense, led by Kendall Stephens (21 points) and Cody Martin (23 points), stormed back.
Nevada scored 11 of the next 13 to trim the lead to 34-32. Hallice Cooke, who finished with nine points, started the surge with a 3-pointer, and after three Air Force misses on the ensuing possession, Cody Martin converted a three-point play. Following a basket by Jon DeWane, Nevada went on an 11-0 run to grab a 38-34 lead. Stephens, who drained a career-best seven 3-pointers, made two from beyond the arc to lead the surge. Caleb Martin added a 3-pointer and Cody Martin scored on a drive.
Air Force tied the game at 38, but a trey by Jordan Caroline gave Nevada the lead at the half.
Stephens was 5-for-8 from long range in the opening half. Nevada went 10-for-15 from long range as a team in the first 20 minutes. Cooke and Caleb Martin each went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. The Falcons shot well, making 17 of 28 from the field.
The teams traded baskets for the 7:38 of the second half. Leading 57-55, the Pack went on a 11-2 surge over the next 3 1/2 minutes to gain a double-digit lead, 68-57, with 8:16 left.
Caleb Martin started the run with a layup, Stephens followed with a triple, and then Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline each made two free throws. After Jacob Van broke the drought for the Falcons, Caroline ended the outburst with two more free throws.
Air Force fought back to 70-65 thanks to five straight points from Trevor Lyons, but an 8-0 run over the next 1:59 gave Nevada a 13-point lead with 2:34 remaining.
Caleb Martin started with a three-point play, Stephens drained his seventh and final 3-pointer and Caroline dropped in a basket. The seven 3s is Stephens’ best in a Nevada uniform, and his 21 points was also his best with the Pack. He had a 24-point game at Purdue.
Besides the slow start, the other glaring issue was 14 turnovers, a high number against a zone defense.
“The turnovers were created by us more than pressure by them,” Jones said. “Fourteen is not good against a team of this caliber.”
NOTES: Nevada now has six true road wins, tied for the most in the NCAA … Nevada has won its last 10 MW games, four of those on the road … Under Musselman, the Pack is 28-12 in MW play, 12-8 on the road … Junior Lindsey Drew had his three-game streak of double-digit scoring snapped … Entering the AF game, Nevada’s RPI sat at 14 with a strength of schedule of 38 and opponent strength of schedule of 61 … Nevada has had a 20-point scorer in 16-of-18 games and it had a 19-point scorer in the other two … Nevada has won five straight and nine of the last 10 against Air Force. Nevada is 4-2 in games at Clune Arena.