RENO—Five different Nevada players reached double figures and the Pack fought off a second-half comeback from Drake on Saturday night to pull out a 79-71 win over the Bulldogs in front of 5,541 at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack improved to 7-3 with the win in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge while the Bulldogs dropped to 4-6. It was Nevada’s first win over Drake in five tries.
“I thought that was our best game,” Nevada first-year coach Eric Musselman said. “I couldn’t be prouder of how they played in the overall game on both sides of the ball.”
After building a lead as large as 17 midway through the second half, Nevada saw its advantage shrink to eight, 71-63, with five minutes to play. Marqueeze Coleman wasn’t having it.
The senior guard responded with a personal 6-0 run to put that Pack back up 14, 77-63, with two minutes to play and end any further comeback thoughts the Bulldogs had. Musselman said Coleman asked not to get help with a screen and wanted to take his man one-on-one.
“Throughout the year I just feel like opportunities like this come around and I just wanted to put my mark on the game and make sure we come out with a win,” Coleman said. “We have a few losses and I feel like I couldn’t do all I could in those losses. Looking back, I wouldn’t want that to happen again.”
Coleman was one of the five Nevada players to finish in double figures, leading everyone with 19. Cam Oliver finished with 17, D.J. Fenner had 13, Eric Cooper Jr. had 11 and Tyron Criswell had 10. Criswell also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.
Oliver, a true freshman, did all of his damage in the second half after playing just four minutes in the first half with early foul trouble.
“Cam sat for a really, really long time. And so when you think about a freshman who sits that long, there’s a lot going through your mind,” Musselman said. “I’m beaming with pride right now at how he came out in the second half in the second half and dominated the game. Because he dominated the second half.”
Drake shot 10-of-22 from deep to lead the second-half comeback effort but watched Nevada score 22 points off its 15 turnovers. The Bulldogs scored just two points off seven turnovers.
“We felt that (athleticism in transition) was the advantage,” Musselman said. “We felt they had the advantage on open jump shots from three and we felt we had the advantage athletically and we had the advantage in jumping in passing lanes … and that proved out.’
At the half, Nevada led 32-27.
Drake grabbed its only lead of the afternoon, 22-21, with a Kale Abrahamson (16 points) triple inside 5:30 but Nevada scored the next 11 points to grab a 10-point cushion.
Reed Timmer led the Bulldogs with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
Points off turnovers were the foundation of the early double-digit lead. The Pack turned 10 turnovers to 15 points while Drake didn’t capitalize on any of the four turnovers it forced.
The Bulldogs closed the initial half on a 5-0 run of their own.
Three-point shooting went a long way in keeping the guests in the contest early. They were 4-of-9 from deep including 3-of-5 from Abrahamson.
Nevada will look to win its third-straight on Friday when it hosts Santa Clara of the West Coast Conference at 7 p.m. The Pack will then play at Wichita State Dec. 22 before opening Mountain West play at New Mexico on Dec. 30.