University of Nevada, Reno gets by Stanislaus State in exhibition basketball game |

University of Nevada, Reno gets by Stanislaus State in exhibition basketball game

Eric Musselman sounded like a coach who had just lost a basketball game early Sunday evening, Oct. 29.

Thanks to a 58-point first half, University of Nevada, Reno won its second exhibition game, 100-83, over Stanislaus State before an announced crowd of 7,032 at Lawlor Events Center.

It was the Pack’s defense, however, that drew Musselman’s ire. Stanislaus outscored the Pack by 10 points in the final 20 minutes, 52-42, and made the game much closer than it should have been.

“By far this is the most disappointed I’ve been in our team since I have been at Nevada,” Musselman said. “We are severely overrated. We have a long, long, long way to go. Our defense was non-existent in the second half. Guys are so young, they don’t understand the urgency of where we are as a team. The guys voting in the Mountain West have no idea (of what they are doing).

“We have large issues, so many issues. We have to get back to the drawing board. When the ball goes in the post, we’re supposed to dig. It’s something we’ve been working on since I got here. They don’t dig, they don’t front the post. There was no energy in the building. We’re just not that good. We are a mid to lower-level Mountain West team right now. Definitely not a step in the right direction.”

And, Musselman insists is post-game tirade wasn’t a ploy to fire his team up.

“I’m not just saying that,” he said. “Straight fact. We gave up 52 points and were outscored by 10. There are seven teams in the Mountain West better than us. I can’t believe 52 percent and 52 points allowed. I’m baffled.”

Part of the letdown, according to the players, was getting a big lead and thinking they had done enough to coast home. The players do believe that Musselman, however, was indeed using some of the post-game tirade as a motivation tactic.

“I’d say 70 percent (was accurate) and 30 percent was motivation,” said Purdue transfer Kendall Stephens, who led all scores with 35 points, 24 coming in the big first half. “We do have a lot of work to do.”

“We took things for granted,” said sophomore swingman Josh Hall, who scored 20 and pulled down 10 rebounds, five offensive, in the win. “We just kind of relaxed in the second half.”

The offense, at least in the first half, clicked on all cylinders. Led by Kendall Stephens’ 24-point first half (35 for the game), Nevada went 21 for 32 from the floor and grabbed a 58-31 lead.

“Thank goodness Kendall played the way he did,” Musselman said. “We haven’t been around a player that has been that hot two straight games. We are still sloppy; turning the ball over and guys aren’t in the right spot.”

Stephens is 16-for-25 shooting, including 14-for-22 beyond the arc in two exhibition games. His nine 3s on Sunday would have tied a school record if it had been a real game. His first two games were a far cry from the Costa Rica trip where he went 9-for-36 from beyond the arc.

“I was in a rut, and I tried to shoot myself out of it,” Stephens said. “Staying confident and believing in myself (were key). My teammates have gotten me the ball in good spots.”

“I think he was down about it (in Costa Rica),” Musselman said. “He was awesome and had a great attitude. I need him to believe his shot is going to fall.”

Nevada had three big scoring runs – 7-0 to start the game, 9-0 in the first half and 18-0 midway through the half – on the way to a 58-31 lead at the break.

Nevada had no trouble scoring from the outside or taking the ball to the basket. Nevada went 21-for-32 from the field, including 9-for-15 from beyond the arc. Nevada also showed its unselfishness with 16 assists in 21 field goals.

The Pack led by 10, 26-16, with 11:25 left in the opening half, when it went on its aforementioned 18-0 run to extend the lead to 44-16 with 4:54 left in the half.

Stephens drained two 3-pointers to start the surge, and Hall knocked down two foul shots and then it was Stephens again for a 3-pointer. A trey by Hall a flush by Cody Martin and a muscle shot by Caleb Martin completed the surge.

Stanislaus State came out firing in the second half, scoring the first seven points and 11 of the first 13 to trim the lead to 60-42. A 3-pointer by Kaelen Mitchell, a bucket by Andy Cleaves, a hoop by Kyle Gouveia and two free tosses by Tyrian Davis led the surge.

The Warriors never got closer than 14 the rest of the way, but after the great first half, Musselman certainly expected more and so did a quiet Lawlor crowd.

“We need our crowd,” Musselman said. “We are not a good enough (team). We have to get them involved. There was no energy (in the second half) in the building. That is our fault.”

Hall and Stephens both had 11 points in the second half. Martin had 12 of his 20 in the final 20 minutes. Hall has been coming on strong since the second half of the season last year.

“We need him on the floor,” Musselman said. “He has to do a better job of not fouling. He had defensive miscues on two switches. We are a different club when he is on the floor. He did a heck of a job tonight.”

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