Nevada survived a trap game against Grand Canyon in the Jerry Colangelo Classic by winning 74-66. The No. 6 Wolf Pack was playing its sixth straight game away from home and their second game in 48 hours.
To do this, Nevada overcame back-to-back travel days and playing a tough team in a not-so-neutral atmosphere. Sunday’s game was easily Nevada’s worst performance but Musselman admittedly put his team through a tough schedule.
In his postgame press conference @NevadaHoops coach takes some blame for team’s sluggish performance pic.twitter.com/ifb9ri6Thm— austin montgomery (@amontgomerylive) December 10, 2018
The Wolf Pack dug itself in a significant hole as GCU started the game on an 11-0 run. GCU began the game in a 2-3 zone that seemed to confuse Nevada’s offense.
The Lopes held the Wolfpack scoreless for the opening 5.5 minutes — the longest stretch Nevada has endured all season. Additionally, Nevada looked sleepy and lazy while the Lopes had ignited their student section, the Havocs. For a while, momentum was going GCU’s way.
Those first two minutes would have canned many teams, but not the Wolf Pack.
Musselman made a critical adjustment by bringing in Nevada’s most important player, Jazz Johnson, off the bench. Johnson became their sparkplug and was a key to dissecting Grand Canyon’s 2-3 zone. In the first half, Johnson had seven points in limited minutes but finished with 19 total on the game. Also, the Wolfpack hunkered down defensively, holding the Lopes to a four-minute scoring drought of their own.
Nevada quickly tied the game at 19 with 6:48 to go in the first half. Nevada made runs to pull away, but GCU held firm. Oscar Frayer hit multiple timely shots and went 3-4 from three-point in the first half. The Lopes only trailed the Wolf Pack by a mere two points at halftime.
GCU battled with Nevada by trading defensive stops and buckets. The Lopes rode the momentum from the Havocs, who showed up 2,200 strong at Talking Stick Arena. Nevada’s Jordan Caroline later said he was very impressed with the GCU student section the Havocs, and that he had a lot of fun playing with them.
GCU would hang around in the second half, never letting Nevada fully take over. Millstead hit a three with eight minutes to go to cut Nevada’s seven-point lead to four.
Nevada didn’t pull away until under three minutes to play. GCU trailed 62-61 with 2:55 to go, Lever missed a potential game-tying free throw and then fouled Caroline on the ensuing rebound. Nevada would take control of the game from there, as GCU didn’t have any big shots left in them.
During the press conference, Majerle talked about his team’s late-game execution, which has been an issue so far.
“Down the stretch, I thought we took good shots,” Majerle said. “That’s the next step. You’ve got to make shots, especially good ones. Those things pile up, especially when there are only a couple of minutes left in the game.”
The Wolf Pack also dominated at the free throw line by going 24-29 from the charity stripe. Nevada would go on to win 74-66 giving GCU +10.5 backers a significant sweat.
Despite an underwhelming performance, Musselman was happy to leave Talking Stick Arena. Here’s is what Majerle had to say about GCU’s performance:
Musselman gives GCU credit pic.twitter.com/5979C4ahlW— Lope Nation (@GCULopeNation) December 10, 2018
Although GCU can hang its hat on a good effort, head coach Dan Majerle is not satisfied with moral victories.
The @GCU_Lopes gave No. 6 Nevada all it could handle in Phoenix on Sunday.— ABC15 Sports (@abc15sports) December 10, 2018
But Coach @DanMajerle says it's time for the Lopes to start winning those games. pic.twitter.com/QyIWjk1X9Y
The Lopes face another tough task when they go on the road to play Texas, while. The undefeated Muss Buss rolls on, and we get to have a debate for the new No.1 team in both the AP and Other Top 25 polls.