A furious second-half comeback wasn’t enough for the seventh-seeded Nevada, which fell on Thursday to 10-seeded Florida Gators, 70-61, in the NCAA West First Round at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
The game marked an end of an era for Wolf Pack stars Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline, along with four other seniors.
A late second-half surge helped Nevada rebound from a lethargic performance in the first half, but several turnovers and ice-cold shooting from the floor sealed the Pack’s fate. The Wolf Pack basketball team finished the year with a 29-5 record. Its 29 wins tied a school record set in 2006-07.
Nevada failed to find any rhythm offensively. It shot 36 percent from the field and had 14 turnovers. Several offensive miscues led to easy buckets in transition for the Gators.
Battling intestinal illness, Cody Martin scored a game-high 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting. The rest of Nevada’s “big three” struggled from the field. Caleb Martin added 19 on a rough 5 of 21 shooting night and Jordan Caroline had just seven points and seven rebounds.
Florida shot 45 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. Kevarrius Hayes tallied a team-high 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Jalen Hudson added 15 points with three 3-pointers to keep the Pack’s comeback at bay.
The Gators jumped out to an 11-6 lead with five-straight buckets. Nevada responded with a 8-2 run with stingy perimeter defense and a steady dose of Caroline inside. Several uncharacteristic turnovers fueled a 9-0 run for the Gators to put them up 20-14 with put Florida back up 22-14 with under nine minutes left in the first half.
Nevada clawed its way back with a 6-0 run and kept Florida off the 3-point line. Caleb Martin and Hudson traded 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions in the waning minutes. Hudson’s fast-break slam off a Cody Martin’s errant pass put the Gators up 37-28 to close the first half.
Allen’s 3-pointer put Florida up 11 points in the early stages of the second half. Musselman adjusted to a full-court press to speed up the pace, but the Gators continued to pound the ball inside and coasted to a 12-0 run.
The Wolf Pack cut its deficit to 54-42 with 10 minutes left to play, but came away with just three free throws. Caleb Martin’s free throw put the contest to single-digits and put the Pack in the double bonus.
Another pair of Cody Martin free throws capped a 9-0 run to put the Pack in a one-possession game, 58-55. Both teams played the free throw game, but Nevada hung tight at the two minute mark. Florida pulled away with a thunderous slam from Gorjak Gak.
Notes: Nevada is 6-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. … Nevada’s 58 wins is the best two-year win total in school history. … The Pack has reached the Sweet 16 twice with the most recent appearance coming last year. … Seven players on Nevada scored 1,000 career points. … Nevada has 17 wins when down double-digits in the Musselman era, which ranks third in all of Division 1 basketball. … Senior Jordan Caroline grabbed 10 rebounds and is now the all-time leader in rebounds in Mountain West history with 958 in his three seasons at Nevada. Caroline ends his college career with 2,045 points and 1,164 rebounds which includes his freshman year at Southern Illinois. He is fifth at Nevada with 1,742 points and 957 rebounds. … Senior Caleb Martin scored 19 points in his final game at Nevada and reached double figures in 31-of-34 games this season. He ends his college career with 1,888 points. His 1,334 points at Nevada ranks 16th in school history. He played his first two seasons at North Carolina State. … Cody Martin tied his season-high and posted a game-high with 23 points tonight. It is the third time he led the Pack in scoring this season. The senior concludes his college career with 1,178 points and 914 came at Nevada. He played his first two seasons at North Carolina State. … Tre’Shawn Thurman concludes his college career with 1,444 points and 821 rebounds. Thurman played his first three seasons at Omaha. … Senior Trey Porter scored 976 points in his college career which includes stops at George Mason and Old Dominion. … Senior Corey Henson ends his college career with 1,233 points. Henson played his first three seasons at Wagner.
— Isaiah Burrows