Eric Musselman: "I Might Have Built Up Cincinnati Too Much"

Nevada overcame a 22-point second-half deficit to stun Cincinnati on Sunday

Tiki and Tierney
March 19, 2018 - 4:22 pm

USA Today Images


Last year, the access code to Nevada’s locker room was the date of Selection Sunday – and for good reason. The Wolf Pack went 28-7 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. After losing in the first round, though, Nevada head coach Eric Musselman upped the ante. The new locker-room code this year? Sixteen-sixteen, which symbolized the team’s desire to reach the Sweet 16 in 2018.

Well, they did. No. 7 (29-7) Nevada knocked off No. 10 Texas, 87-83, and No. 2 Cincinnati, 75-73, to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.

“Obviously we’re going to have to change the code because we want more now,” Musselman said on Tiki and Tierney, “but that was our goal at the beginning of the season.”

That goal was achieved in dramatic fashion, as Nevada overcame a 22-point second-half deficit to stun the Bearcats (31-5) in Nashville on Sunday. It is the second-largest deficit overcome in NCAA Tournament history.

“I might have built up Cincinnati too much,” Musselman admitted. “I talked over and over about their toughness and their rebounding, and it might have affected the way we played in the first half. They knew they were ranked sixth in the country, they knew their seed, they knew who was on their roster, they knew they were a program that has great respect throughout the country – I probably built them up too much, to be honest. It was a great lesson for me because we played so poorly out of the gate.”

Cincinnati scored the first 10 points of the game but allowed 32 points in the final 11 minutes. The Bearcats, who ranked second in the country in scoring defense, had no answer for Nevada forward Cody Martin, who finished with a game-high 25 points, a team-high seven assists and six rebounds. The Wolf Pack shot 30-of-61 (49.2 percent) from the floor. 

The Bearcats, meanwhile, were held scoreless over the final 5:45, and Martin’s twin brother, Caleb, tied the game with a three in the final minute. Josh Hall scored the game-winning bucket with 9.1 seconds to go.

That was Nevada’s only lead of the game.

“We always think that no matter how much we’re down that we have a chance if we just keep playing and stick with it and try to get defensive stops and try to make some adjustments,” Musselman said. “There was no panic last night. We were getting crushed, and the guys kept believing.”

Now it’s on the Sweet 16. Nevada will face No. 11 Loyola (30-5), which has authored quite the Cinderella tail of its own. The Ramblers defeated No. 6 Miami and No. 3 Tennessee on last-second shots to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985. They have won 19 of 20 overall.

“We both feel like we can advance,” Musselman said. “I know they think the same thing, so I think Thursday night is going to be an epic, great, great basketball game with two programs that don’t really have star-name power year after year. That’s what I think makes this tournament so awesome. It's a great story for both programs. Somebody's dream is going to end, and someone's going to continue."

Tip-off is at 7:07 p.m. ET.