RENO — The streak is over.
Nevada’s 16-game win streak at Lawlor Events Center came to an end as UNLV went on a game-ending 8-0 run over the final 2:25 to grab an 86-78 win Wednesday before a season-best crowd of 11,285.
And, the bad news didn’t end there, as coach Eric Musselman disclosed that Caleb Martin, the team’s leading scorer, has a ligament injury to his left foot, and his return to the team is unknown. It was later disclosed that it’s a lisfranc sprain suffered in the closing minutes of the Colorado State win.
The loss dropped Nevada out of first place in the Mountain West standings. Boise State is 10-2 and Nevada, 20-5 overall, is a half-game back at 9-2. The teams meet Feb. 14 in Boise.
Musselman painted a bleak picture in his postgame press conference.
“Missing Caleb a lot,” Musselman said. “He is the potential MVP of the league. Other guys got opportunities and didn’t step up. Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t defend well. They shot 50 percent for the game and 53 percent in the second half when we needed some stops. We didn’t rebound well enough.
“Didn’t get any loose balls. Lack of effort. I respect (Jovan) Mooring diving on the floor while we stood and watched. I thought (Shakur) Juiston was a man in there rebounding and dominating on the glass. He did an incredible job. Mooring hit big shot after big shot after big shot. We played soft. I don’t know what else to say.”
Mooring scored 31 points on 11-for-20 shooting, including six 3-pointers. Juiston finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end.
Musselman went as far to say that he “hoped” Nevada could get a first-round bye in the Mountain West tournament. Nevada leads Wyoming by two in the loss column and has a three-game lead in the loss column over Fresno State, New Mexico, Utah State and UNLV.
“We are in a fight for our lives just to get decent seeding now and I mean in the Mountain West tournament,” Musselman said. “All the other stuff is nonsense. How can we get the best seed possible in the tournament (is what matters).”
Cody Martin, who finished with 16 points, four rebounds and five assists, has by no means given up.
“We can’t sit and dwell on it,” Martin said. “We have to move on and prepare for the next game. This one is going to sting.”
“No doubt (the conference is ours to win),” said Jordan Caroline. “We definitely dropped the ball tonight, but we’re still tied for first. We have to make a statement win on Saturday. The fans were great and we didn’t take care of business.”
Caroline admitted it was demoralizing to see the fans leave with 9.7 seconds left, knowing the home winning streak was over.
This game was all about scoring streaks. Nevada had runs of 10-3, 10-0 and 8-0 in the second half, while the Rebels had a 9-0 run and the aforementioned game-ending 8-0 run.
Nevada’s 8-0 run enabled it to tie the game at 78 with 2:25 left. Lindsey Drew, who scored a career-best 17, started the surge with two free throws, and then Kendall Stephens (16 points) added three free throws and a 3-pointer.
After each team had an empty possession, 7-foot freshman Brandon McCoy dropped in two free throws after being fouled on a rebound attempt to make it 80-78. Drew misfired in traffic and then Mooring hit a jump shot with 1:15 left for an 82-78 lead.
Josh Hall missed a 3-pointer and then UNLV turned it over. Drew missed again in traffic on a drive to the basket, and McCoy added two more free throws when Nevada had to foul. Mooring completed the scoring with two free tosses with nine seconds left.
In the final 2:25, Nevada went 0-for-5.
“I thought we got some pretty good looks,” Caroline said. “Those are shots Lindsey usually makes even with contact, and Kendall had a good look on the 3-pointer.”
The Rebels used a 10-5 run in the last 3:16 of the first half to grab a 41-34 lead. The game was tied five times and there were eight lead changes. Until the Rebels put together their run, the teams were never separated by more than four points.
Mooring, who had 14 first-half points thanks to four 3-pointers, dropped in a 3-pointer for a 35-31 lead. Nevada failed to score on its next two possessions, and the Rebels converted both times on two free throws by McCoy and another shot by Mooring that made it 39-31 with 56.8 left. After another Nevada turnover, Juiston made it 41-31. Martin beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer.
Rebounding was key in the first half. The Rebels had six offensive rebounds leading to 11 points. UNLV dominated inside, scoring 18 points in the paint.
“Got beat on hustle play plays,” Caroline said, referring to the offensive rebounds. We played fine, just lost the hustle plays, and ultimately it’s why we lost the game.”