RENO—Basketball is a game of runs.
Nevada used a 13-0 run out of the locker room and an 11-0 run midway through the second half to down Eastern Washington, 85-70, on Monday night in front of 6,053 at Lawlor Events Center.
Now, the Wolf Pack (21-13) is running to the College Basketball Invitational semifinals. The Eagles (18-16) are running back to Cheney, Wash. for the offseason.
“I thought we just kind of wore down Eastern Washington tonight,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “I thought our defensive intensity to start the second half was as good as we’ve had all year.”
EWU shot 51 percent from the floor (18-of-35) in the first half before getting held to 29 percent (8-of-28) in the second half. Nevada outscored EWU 42-25 over the final 20 minutes.
Nevada outrebounded Eastern Washington 45-27, including a 27-11 advantage in the second half.
True freshman Cam Oliver and senior Tyron Criswell both had nights to remember in the Pack’s second CBI win, following Wednesday’s win over Montana. Criswell scored a career-high 32 points and Oliver wasn’t far behind. Oliver scored 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting while pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Obviously (Criswell) scored the ball,” Musselman said. “But I think what was more impressive was when he defensively switched in the second half onto Austin McBroom.”
After McBroom, the Eagles’ leading scorer, went for 17 points in the first half to give EWU a two-point halftime edge, he drew Criswell in the second half. Criswell forced McBroom to miss all seven of his shots out of the locker room and did not let him get to the charity stripe.
Criswell admitted he even surprised himself with his lock down defense.
“Honestly I thought I was just going to slow him down,” Criswell said. “But I see he didn’t even score in the second half. That really surprised me.”
D.J. Fenner also had a stat night as Nevada played one of its best offensive games of the season. As a tea, the Pack passed out 22 assists and shot 50 percent (32-of-64) from the field, including 8-of-23 from deep.
Fenner scored nine points, passed out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds.
“I think we just were really able to click tonight,” Fenner said. “We felt really good out there tonight, swinging the ball, finding shooters and guys were making shots. That helps.”
Leading 62-57 with 10:23 to play, Nevada used its second big run of the night to essentially put the game away. The Eagles did not score again until the 5:36 mark and at that point, they trailed 73-59.
The lead grew as large as 21 before Nevada advanced with the 15-point victory.
After an up-and-down first half, Nevada trailed 45-43.
The 88 combined first half points were the most in a Nevada game this season. The previous high was 84 when the Pack led 49-35 at Utah State on Jan. 30 and went on to win 89-84.
After 10 lead changes in the early minutes, Nevada opened its largest lead of the first half, 29-23 following an Oliver fast break flush.
The Eagles responded with a 12-2 run to take a 33-31 lead before the lead changed hands four more times and EWU took the two-point edge to the locker room.
Nevada will host Vermont (23-13) on Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center for the right to advance to the CBI Championship, a best-of-three series.
Musselman and the players raved about the energy in the building and said they hope to see it again in the semifinals.
“Our crowd right now is playing a huge factor in our energy level,” Musselman said. “We hope everyone in the Reno area knows how impactful they are for us right now.
“We cannot worry about anything but Wednesday night’s game.”
Tip is at 7 p.m.