The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team seems to turn into something special after halftime.
The Wolf Pack outscored Montana State 42-25 in the second half on Sunday and rolled to an easy 83-62 victory in the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. Marqueze Coleman led the Wolf Pack with 20 points. D.J. Fenner added 17, Tyron Criswell had 15 and A.J. West had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Wolf Pack, which beat Coastal Carolina 73-56 on Friday to open the season in Honolulu, are now 2-0 for just the second time since the 2006-07 season. The Pack also started 2-0 last year but then lost its next eight games. The last time the Pack opened a season 2-0 on the road was 2001-02 when it won at Cal State Northridge and St. Mary’s.
The Wolf Pack led just 41-37 at the half against Montana State. On Friday against Coastal Carolina the Pack trailed 23-21 at the break. The Wolf Pack, which stressed a higher level of conditioning this off-season under new head coach Eric Musselman, has dominated its first two games after the break. In the first two games this season the Wolf Pack has outscored the opposition 94-58 in the second half.
The Wolf Pack led Montana State just 42-39 with 18 minutes to play but then went on a 12-2 run to take control of the game. Cameron Oliver, who had six points and three rebounds, finished off the run with a pair of dunks for a 52-41 lead with 14:21 to play. West also had a pair of free throws and Fenner and Eric Cooper each hit jumpers to start the run.
Leading 66-55 with 6:47 to go the Pack then buried Montana State. A 12-4 run, keyed by six points by Coleman as well as dunks by Criswell and Oliver and a jumper by Fenner, gave the Pack a 78-59 lead with just 2:42 to go. Montana State didn’t score in the final two minutes of the game, after a 3-pointer by Nahjee Matlock cut the Pack lead to 78-62.
The Wolf Pack, which led for more than 38 of the 40 minutes, outscored Montana State 42-24 in the paint and held a 12-0 advantage on fast break points. Montana State’s only lead was 2-1 for 79 seconds.
The Pack, though, allowed Montana State to get back in the game midway through the first half. The Wolf Pack went on a 15-0 run two minutes into the game to take a seemingly comfortable 16-2 lead. Coleman had six of the 16 points, Criswell and West each had four and Cooper also had a jumper. The Pack also led 24-9 after another jumper by Fenner with 9:21 to go in the first half.
Montana State, though, went on a 10-0 run to cut the Pack lead to 24-19 with just under seven minutes to go before halftime. The run extended to 13-2 after a 3-pointer by Stephen Holm pulled Montana State to within 26-22 with 6:24 left in the half. The Wolf Pack missed four 3-pointers and four shots inside the circle in the final eight minutes of the half and also turned the ball over four times and missed a pair of free throws.
The Wolf Pack was just 2-of-13 on 3-pointers against Montana State and is now just 7-of-30 in its first two games combined from long distance. Cooper was 1-of-7 on threes against Montana State and Fenner was 1-of-4. The Wolf Pack, though, has more than made up for its struggles from beyond the arc by shooting a sizzling 52 percent (49-of-95) on shots inside the circle over its first two games. The Pack was 28-of-47 (60 percent) on 2-pointers against Montana State.
Montana State shot just 19 percent (6-of-31) in the second half and just 30 percent (17-of-57) for the game. They were also just 5-of-21 on threes.
Coleman has been the Pack’s most consistent player over the first two games with 34 points, shooting 18-of-22 from the free throw line. West has 23 points and 23 rebounds in the first two games and Fenner has scored 33 points.
Coleman and Criswell did a little of everything against Montana State. In addition to his 20 points Coleman had five rebounds and four assists. Criswell had six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal to go along with his 15 points.
The Wolf Pack will take on host school Hawaii at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning to close out the Honolulu tournament. Hawaii, which is a member of the Big West in basketball, is also 2-0 after beating Coastal Carolina (74-63) and Montana State (87-76). The Wolf Pack will also play at Pacific on Nov. 21 before returning to Lawlor Events Center to meet Portland State on Nov. 25.