Sparks Tribune and Associated Press
After getting revenge against Loyola-Chicago on Tuesday and overcoming a halftime deficit to USC Saturday, Nevada is 8-0 for the second straight season.
The Wolf Pack actually fell one spot in Monday’s AP Top 25 rankings to No. 6 despite the double digit road wins, but have a chance to improve its resume even more when they take on No. 20 Arizona State Friday night in Los Angeles.
Nevada 73, USC 61
LOS ANGELES — Struggling offensively, Nevada went into halftime trailing by one in front of a partisan crowd. The Wolf Pack’s seniors emerged with a different mindset.
“We just have to come out with that intensity, come out with that fire,” Jordan Caroline said. “We got to play like we’re behind. We got to go make a big run, and that’s what we did.”
Caroline scored 22 points and No. 5 Nevada took control with a dominant second half to beat Southern California 73-61 on Saturday and equal its 8-0 start from last season.
Tre’Shawn Thurman added 14 points and nine rebounds and Caleb Martin had 12 points for the Wolf Pack, who outscored USC 39-26 over the final 20 minutes.
“It was a tough early game and really focusing on the importance of the game,” Martin said.
It marked a major turnaround from the first half, when the Trojans shot 50 percent from the field and led by as many as seven points. The Wolf Pack missed more than half their field goal attempts and leading scorer Martin had just seven points, leaving them trailing by one at the break.
“Historically, we’ve been a really good second-half team, so far this year it’s kind of mixed results,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “We just felt like we didn’t have good enough rhythm to start the game and we felt like USC was controlling the pace. We had to play better defense.”
Nick Rakocevic had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Trojans (5-3) as their three-game winning streak ended. Bennie Boatwright, their leading scorer at 16.8 points, was held to seven points.
USC came out aggressively to start the game, driving to the basket, crashing the boards and closely defending Martin, who entered the game averaging 21 points.
Caroline and Thurman carried Nevada in the first half, each scoring 11 points.
“Jordan Caroline absolutely killed us,” Rakocevic said. “We kind of gave him a lot in the paint, just kind of gave him everything he wanted.”
USC didn’t appear to be the same team in the second half, when the Trojans never put together a scoring run.
“I thought the first half was a really good sign that we could be one of the top teams and compete, but we’ve got to come out better in the second half,” Rakocevic said. “We just came out flat. Defensively, I think we just had too many breakdowns.”
The Wolf Pack turned things around quickly, outscoring USC 9-0 to open the second half. It was the start of a 31-11 run that produced Nevada’s largest lead, 65-46. The spurt included three consecutive 3-pointers by Jazz Johnson (two) and Thurman.
“A team that averages 90 points, you’re not going to be able to hold them down the whole game, but when they go on runs you have to score with them,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack’s point total was a season low. … Los Angeles Lakers player JaVale McGee, who played two years at Nevada before leaving for the NBA, sat courtside wearing a Nevada hoodie. His Hall of Fame mother, Pam McGee, who starred in basketball at USC, wore a Trojans jersey. … More than 20 pro scouts were in attendance. … The teams played each other for the first time since 1976. The Wolf Pack trail the series 2-1.
Musselman used to visit Galen Center when he was an assistant at Arizona State. The crowd of 5,844 was small but loud in urging on the Trojans. “This place is not like it was today,” he said. “It was electric.”
Nevada 79, Loyola-Chicago 65
CHICAGO — The maroon and gold Final Four banner hanging from the rafters gave Nevada just a little extra motivation. Not that the Wolf Pack really needed it.
Caleb Martin had 21 points, twin brother Cody Martin scored 20 and No. 5 Nevada beat Loyola-Chicago 79-65 on Tuesday night in a rematch of their NCAA Tournament game.
Loyola edged Nevada by one point in the South Regional semifinals last season — the only other meeting between these programs. That victory came during a stunning Final Four run for the Ramblers.
“There was a lot of motivation,” Caleb Martin said. “We thought that it could’ve been us. They had a lot of momentum behind them last year and they played really well and they had guys step up for them even though they were a young group of guys. … We just had to tip our hats and keep it moving.”
Nevada players saw the banner during shootaround, and an image was left showing it on a projector while they got dressed before the game.
Caleb Martin then scored 17 in the first half, helping the Wolf Pack (7-0) grab a 44-28 lead. The preseason All-American shot 8 of 13 in the game, including 3 for 6 on 3-pointers.
Cody Martin was 9 of 14 with seven assists.
Caroline, playing in his home state, had 15 points and six rebounds. Trey Porter added 14 points and 10 boards.
“There’s a lot of veterans on that team,” said Loyola’s Marques Townes, who hit the decisive 3 in the closing seconds of the NCAA game against Nevada. “They got a couple of transfers and the majority of the starting lineup back. They played like men today. I feel like they out-physicalled us today and we didn’t respond.”
Townes led Loyola (4-3) with a season-high 24 points and nine rebounds, but the Ramblers dropped their second straight game.
Loyola great Jerry Harkness presented a Final Four ring to Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt — the now 99-year-old nun and team chaplain who charmed the nation during last season’s run — prior to the game. But with a raucous crowd packing the arena, Nevada did its best to put this one away in the early going.
Led by the Martins, the Wolf Pack shot 62.5 percent while building their 44-28 halftime lead.
They led 29-9 midway through the first half after a layup by Cody Martin. He also hit a 3 with 5:22 left to make it 38-18 before Loyola cut it to 12 in the closing minutes. The Ramblers’ Clayton Custer missed a 3 that would have made it a nine-point game. Caleb Martin hit a runner and Porter scored on a layup to get it back up to 16 with 14 seconds left in the half.