By Kevin Sweeney
While Nevada put together one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history in the season’s first matchup with New Mexico, that game still brought question to Nevada’s tag as the Mountain West’s best team.
Those questions were answered in a big way tonight, as the Wolf Pack rolled past the Lobos 82-65 behind a season-high 26 points, including a few thunderous dunks, from sophomore big man Cam Oliver. The win cements Nevada’s status atop the Mountain West, as the Wolf Pack now sits alone at 7-2 in first place in the conference.
It was a slow start offensively for the Wolf Pack, but the Lobos were unable to pull away thanks to a fast start by the Pack’s Jordan Caroline. Caroline, the redshirt sophomore transfer from Southern Illinois who torched New Mexico for 45 points earlier this month, scored 11 of the Pack’s first 12 points to keep Nevada within 2 eight minutes in. Then, Nevada heated up, using an 11-0 run to take an 8 point lead and sending a huge Lawlor Events Center crowd into a frenzy.
New Mexico recovered nicely, quickly cutting the Wolf Pack lead to one, but a sequence late in the half proved critical in shifting the momentum back to Nevada. After the final media timeout of the first half, the Wolf Pack locked in defensively, conceding just 3 points the rest of the half. Meanwhile, a big dunk by Oliver, a 3 by D.J. Fenner, and a free throw by Caroline extended the Nevada lead back to 6, 37-31 at halftime.
In the second half, Nevada had the answer to every New Mexico run. Early in the half, it was a 3 by Oliver that the Wolf Pack some breathing room after the Lobos had cut their deficit to one. Later on, an 11-2 run brought the Nevada lead back to double figures after their lead has been shaved down to four.
However, the late sequence as the game headed down the stretch sealed the deal for the Pack. Nevada hit triples on 3 straight offensive possessions, two by Marcus Marshall and one by Oliver, to give Nevada their largest lead of the night of 15 with 4:15 to go. That hot stretch was part of a 3-point barrage that saw the Wolf Pack drain 13 threes in the game.
From there, the outcome was never in doubt.
Caroline posted 20 points and 8 rebounds for the Wolf Pack, while Marshall added 13 points. Nevada was able to capitalize on 17 New Mexico turnovers for 20 points.
Tim Williams and Elijah Brown each had 18 points for the Lobos, who fall to 6-4 in Mountain West play.
Both teams return to action Wednesday, when Nevada travels to take on Utah State and New Mexico heads to Vegas for a matchup with UNLV.