Cal Baptist-Nevada Preview
You wouldn't think that the Nevada and California Baptist basketball teams had much in common other than the game scheduled for Monday at Lawlor Events Center.
Indeed, there is a common thread running through the Wolf Pack and Lancers programs -- both have taken dramatic leaps into unchartered territory this season.
Nevada's story is well-known by now. One possession away from making the Elite Eight, great recruiting and nearly everyone back has expectations sky-high in Northern Nevada. The Wolf Pack are ranked sixth in the nation and anything short of a Final Four appearance for Eric Musselman's squad probably will be considered a disappointment.
California Baptist also is treading in unchartered waters. The Lancers are one of two teams this season to make the jump to Division I (North Alabama being the other) and now the small school in Riverside, Calif., competes in the Western Athletic Conference.
While most expect the Lancers (2-1) to take their lumps, they are off to a solid start despite losing on Friday on the road to Tulsa by just three points.
Nine lead changes and the outcome not determined until the final minutes gives the Lancers plenty of confidence.
Milan Acquaah gives Cal Baptist a lot of production, too. The Washington State transfer scored 20 points, dished out 11 assists and had eight rebounds in the loss to Tulsa. He's averaging over 19 points per game.
Acquaah already has endeared himself to the Lancer faithful thanks to his 40-foot buzzer-beater that gave Cal Baptist a win over Oral Roberts last week.
"It was kind of like, who was going to make the last play," Cal Baptist coach Rick Croy told the Tulsa World. "We were fortunate there was enough time left on the clock. It was a makeable shot, and you still have to hit it. But it was a remarkable shot and the celebration was worthy."
Croy has instilled a sense of fearlessness in the Lancers as they play in Division I for the first time. So while they might be undermanned and a huge underdog against the Wolf Pack, they won't be intimidated.
Cal Baptist went 28-6 and reached the quarterfinals in the Division II playoffs last season.
The two teams have something else in common -- they love to shoot the 3. The Lancers have hoisted 84 3-point shots, making 26 of them, in their first three games. Against Tulsa, they attempted 42 shots from beyond the arc.
Nevada is 33-for-86 from long range in its three wins this season.
A couple of significant differences between the Lancers and Wolf Pack are Nevada's depth and experience.
Caleb Martin is Nevada's leading scorer at just under 21 points per game, although he was held scoreless in the first half of the first two games.
Jordan Caroline is off to a scintillating start averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Then there is Cody Martin, the floor general who makes the offense hum. In Friday's win over Little Rock, Cody Martin recorded 14 points and 10 assists.
"He's a next level point guard," Musselman told the Reno Gazette Journal. "He's got a great basketball IQ. He's letting the game come to him. He's not forcing shots. He's not taking bad shots."
The starters get a lot of the attention and deservedly so, but Musselman said Jazz Johnson has been the "X" factor off the bench, especially in the first two games.
"He (Johnson) was phenomenal as well," Musselman said. "When he knocks down 3s we're good. He did a good job in his limited minutes getting to the free-throw line as well."
The Wolf Park are averaging 85.3 points per game while giving up 63.3 points per game.
The Lancers are putting up 79.6 points per game while surrendering 71.3.
Updated November 18, 2018