Nevada Wolf Pack basketball clips Eastern Washington 85-70 in CBI second round, advances to semifinals
RENO, Nev. — It might be time to change the state song to “Home Means Nevada Never Loses in a National Tournament.”
The Wolf Pack, playing a Big Sky Conference team at home for the second consecutive game, whipped the Eastern Washington Eagles 85-70 Monday night, March 21, in the College Basketball Invitational in front of a crowd of 6,053 at Lawlor Events Center.
The Wolf Pack’s reward? Another home game. The Pack, now 21-13, will host Vermont on Wednesday, March 23, at Lawlor at 7 p.m. in the CBI semifinals. Vermont was a 73-54 winner over Seattle on Monday on the road and is now 23-13 on the year.
“Playing at home in a tournament is real big,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said. “Guys are not missing school. We don’t have to get on a plane to go somewhere so guys are rested. And our crowds have been amazing.”
Musselman, during one timeout in the second half, walked away from his team’s huddle on the court, made like a cheerleader and started waving his arms in the air to get the crowd excited.
“That was more for them (the crowd) to keep it going,” Musselman said. “The crowd was giving us momentum, giving us enthusiasm and that was just me telling them, ‘We need that. We like that.’”
Musselman also got his team excited.
“It’s fun to see that as a player,” guard D.J. Fenner said. “All of a sudden you hear the crowd screaming and you look over and Coach Muss is yelling at the crowd.”
The Wolf Pack dominated the second half after trailing at the break 45-43. The Pack went on a 13-0 run over the first 5:32 of the second half to take a 56-45 lead as the Eagles missed their first 10 shots. Criswell scored seven of the 13 points during the run and finished with a career-high 32.
“T.C. was awesome,” Musselman said. “He scored 32 points but I was most proud of what he did on defense. We put him on (Austin) McBroom in the second half and T.C. shut him down.”
McBroom, the Eagles’ 5-foot-9 point guard, had 17 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting. In the second half, with Criswell, following him around the court, McBroom was 0-for-7 from the floor and did not score.
McBroom wasn’t the only Eagle who had trouble scoring in the second half. The Wolf Pack held Eastern Washington to just 12 points over the first 14:22 of the second half. The Eagles (18-16), who were without Venky Jois (16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds a game) because of a knee injury, ended up with just 25 points and made just 8-of-28 shots from the floor in the second half.
“We could sense that they were slowing down,” Fenner said. “We were bigger than them. We just grinded them.”
The Eagles never really made a run in the second half. The Pack outscored Eastern Washington 30-12 over the first 13:22 of the second half to take a 73-57 lead and put the game away.
Criswell had 13 of the 30 points with Cam Oliver chipping in with six. Lindsey Drew also hit a 3-pointer for the 16-point lead with 6:38 to play.
Fenner, who had four 3-pointers in the 79-75 win over Montana last Wednesday to open the CBI, led the Pack with a career-high nine assists. The junior was just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers but finished with nine points and six rebounds to go along with his nine assists.
The Wolf Pack also enjoyed a 29-9 edge on the boards in the second half and 45-27 for the game. Oliver had a career-high 28 points and 14 boards.
Oliver was 7-of-8 from the floor in the first half for 16 points. The 6-foot-8 freshman has now scored in double figures in nine consecutive games. He’s had a double-double in three of his last four games and in nine games this year.
“Coach Muss told us to step on their throats when we got the lead and that’s what we did,” Oliver said. “But we can’t get comfortable now. We have it in our minds that this (the CBI) is something we can win.”
Senior point guard Marqueze Coleman, who missed the win over Montana, returned to the court against Eastern Washington. Coleman played 15 minutes off the bench for two points, three rebounds and three assists. He took just one shot and missed.
“Marqueze gave us 15 important minutes because it allowed us to get guys some rest,” Musselman said. “He did a good job of letting the game come to him.”
The Pack, right now, is content to keep allowing the CBI come to Lawlor Events Center.
“We have a lot of confidence playing at home right now,” Fenner said. “I know we felt really good out there tonight.”
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