Nevada faces must-win game vs. Morehead

Nevada faces must-win game vs. Morehead

Red-hot Morehead State needs just one more victory to conclude its year in a celebratory manner. That triumph must be earned, though, in an environment of the utmost hostility.

The CBI’s best-of-three championship series swings to Nevada this evening, with a 9 p.m. ET tip between the Wolf Pack and Eagles. Online sports book BetDSI currently likes the host squad as a 4-point favorite.

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Back in their safe haven of the Lawlor Events Center, Eric Musselman’s players now contend with a do-or-die scenario. Nevada (22-14) succumbed to Morehead State on Monday, 86-83, despite shooting 50 percent from the floor. Also on the plus side: senior guard Tyron Criswell exploded for a season-high 31 points.

What went wrong, then? For starters, the Eagles’ inside trio of Lyonell Gaines, Anthony Elechi and DeJuan Marrero shredded the Wolf Pack’s duo of Cameron Oliver and Elijah Foster. Those three combined to score 51 points and grab 10 offensive rebounds. Oliver and Foster both encountered early foul trouble, and the paint scenario simply careened out of control from there.

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While Gaines may not muster another career-best performance, Nevada has to revert to creating havoc with its defense. Morehead State (23-12) only committed five turnovers in Kentucky, and the Wolf Pack couldn’t even generate a single fastbreak bucket. The onus falls on Marqueze Coleman and D.J. Fenner to support Criswell in this area tonight.

Earlier in the tournament, Nevada cruised to home wins over Montana, Eastern Washington and Vermont. The raucous Reno environment simply feeds into the frenzied pace approved by Musselman. Considerable credit goes to the Eagles for capturing 11 of 12, but we lean toward the group with everything to lose here.

WEDNESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: NEVADA -4

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