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Excited Nevada takes on workmanlike Cincinnati

By
The Sports Xchange

If not for top seed Virginia's historic loss on Friday, one of the NCAA Tournament's biggest stories just might have been the Nevada Wolf Pack and their exuberant head coach.

But for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, nothing was going to trump the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's historic upset of the Cavaliers.

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Imagine how much apologizing Nevada's Eric Musselman would be doing if his team was seeded 16th and had defeated the No. 1 overall seed?

The Wolf Pack (28-7) rallied from a 14-point, second-half deficit to beat Texas in overtime 87-83 in Nashville, Tenn. The win was Nevada's first NCAA Tournament victory since 2007.

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In the postgame locker room celebration, Musselman could clearly be heard shouting expletives during a wild celebration with his players.

"First of all, we'd like to apologize for any language that might have been caught on TV. Obviously, we had an excited locker room," Musselman said as he opened his postgame news conference. "We apologize for that."

Musselman and the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack won't have much time to savor their victory over the 10th-seed Longhorns. Up next will be the Cincinnati Bearcats (31-4) -- the South Region's second seed.

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Sunday's game will match a Wolf Pack offense that ranks 16th in the nation at 83.2 points per game against a Cincinnati defense that is second in the nation, giving up just 57.1 points.

This will be the first time the two teams have played each other.

The Wolf Pack are making their eighth appearance, and second straight, in the NCAA Tournament. Nevada's best showing was a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2004.

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Cincinnati's tournament resume includes two titles and six Final Fours among its 31 appearances. Maybe that explains the Bearcats' workmanlike attitude.

They took care of business on Friday, beating Georgia State 68-53. There were no wild celebrations in Mick Cronin's locker room. Cronin didn't think there was much reason to celebrate after winning a first-round game.

"If you're in the tournament, you're trying to win the tournament," Cronin said. "That might be the Tiger Woods in me. I don't believe in Elite Eights and all that stuff. ... To me, you enter a tournament to win it."

The Bearcats trailed early but too much Jarron Cumberland (27 points, 11 rebounds) and a little too much bravado doomed Georgia State to a quick exit.

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"What really made me play was their guys talking trash," Cumberland told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It hyped me up. They were talking a lot of stuff and saying they came ready to play. I was like, 'Yeah, I hear you guys talking.' "

Cronin and the Bearcats will be facing a confident and explosive Wolf Pack team on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. The Wolf Pack stormed back from the double-digit deficit and tied the game with a free throw from Jordan Caroline with 3.8 seconds in regulation.

In overtime, they showed just how scary they can be on offense. Nevada scored on all nine possessions and went 6-for-6 from the field, including Caleb Martin hitting three from beyond the arc. The Wolf Pack scored 19 points in the extra period.

"I don't know how we won," a drenched and shocked Musselman said.

Nevada used only six players, but five of them scored at least 14 points. Kendall Stephens had a team-high 22 points.

The Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, who transferred from North Carolina State, combined for just nine first-half points but teamed up for 24 points in the second half and overtime.

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"I knew once we got into overtime, we'd be good," said Cody Martin, who had 15 points, six assists and four blocks. "You could tell by the body language that they didn't want to go into overtime."

In the Wolf Pack's march to the Sweet 16 in 2004, they were a 10th seed, and after beating Michigan State, faced No. 2 seed Gonzaga. The Wolf Pack beat the Bulldogs 91-72 before losing the next time out to eventual runner-up Georgia Tech 72-67.

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