Martins, Nevada win big game

Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Boise State-Nevada basketball clash on Jan. 20 before an ESPNU audience lived up to the hype. The Martin twins and Nevada entered with a one-game lead in the Mountain West Conference. They walked out with a ballyhooed win, 74-68, over the visiting Broncos (16-4, 6-2).

The Wolf Pack (18-3, 7-0) won because Caleb Martin flourished under the season’s brightest lights and because they refused to lose in front of one of the largest home crowds in history (11,000-plus).

“It was two great teams,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “It was an unbelievable game for fans to watch, both the 11,000 here and the people who watched on national TV. It was great exposure for the university, and anybody who watched that game saw two excellent teams. It was like a heavyweight fight, back and forth, incredible hustle plays.”

Nevada forward Jordan Caroline, who piled up 22 points and 13 rebounds, said: “It felt like an (NCAA) Tournament game.”

With the conference’s top two scorers on the same floor – Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison averages 19.9 points per game – Caleb Martin (No. 2 at 19.7) came up with a stirring performance, scoring a game-high 28 points to lead Nevada to its 15th straight home win and its 16th straight win against MWC opponents.

“People wanted to match us up: ‘They’re the better defensive team, better rebounding team,’” Caleb said. “They’re a great team, don’t get me wrong, but so are we. It was nice to have a head-to-head matchup, two great teams. I might be biased, but I feel like we are the better team.”

Nevada took a 35-29 halftime lead, but turnovers (five in seven possessions) turned the momentum early in the season half. Boise ripped off 12 unanswered points, forcing Musselman to burn a rare timeout. The Wolf Pack responded with a 14-4 run.

The Broncos answered right back and would stretch Nevada to the limit. There were 10 lead changes and nine ties, including a deadlock at 65 at crunch time.

Caleb and Caroline made sure Nevada held on, accounting for 50 of their team’s 74 points. Caleb converted 11 of 22 field goals and 4 of 10 3-pointers in 38 minutes. After a quiet first half, Hutchison went to work, finishing with 27 points while hitting 10 of 18 field goals and 7 of 9 free throws. Although he missed all five 3-point attempts, he added five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Cody Martin – who is typically a stat-sheet stuffer while averaging 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists as well as serving as the team’s defensive stopper – was a shell of himself as he nurses an Achilles injury. He gutted out 21 minutes before fouling out. He contributed four points, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Afterward, Hutchison provided bulletin-board material for the Feb. 13 rematch at Boise.

“We don’t feel like we got beat by a better team,” he said. “We feel like we had some mental errors that you can’t have on the road, especially here with a great team and in this environment.”