Two days after they came back from down 14 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Nevada Wolf Pack upped the degree of difficulty against a higher seed: the No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats, whom the No. 7 seed spotted 22 points with 11 minutes to play.
The Pack didn’t lead for the first 39 minutes and 50.9 seconds, until Josh Hall secured a Cody Martin miss and flipped the ball back up and in for a 75-73 lead, where the score would remain.
The upset is tied for the second-largest comeback in NCAA tournament history, equal to Duke’s 2001 comeback over Maryland in the Final Four, and just behind BYU’s victory over the Iona Gaels after falling behind by 25 points in the 2012 First Four.
“We told them, ‘Guys, we are down 22 on the biggest stage we will ever play on,'” said Nevada head coach Eric Musselman, whose team erased a 14-point deficit against Texas the round prior. “‘You can’t hide. We’ve got to compete. We’ve got to battle.’ And then they started talking in the huddles.”
With his team in desperation mode, Musselman called for a switching defensive scheme aimed at speeding the Bearcuts up and forcing turnovers.
“We wanted them to speed up a little bit and didn’t want them to milk the clock,” Musselman said.
It worked, giving Cincinnati a “deer in the headlights look” according to Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin.
“That locker room right now, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Musselman said. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t be more proud of a team. Every single player in there, I mean, this feeling’s never going away the rest of any of our lives.”
Here’s video footage of the happiest moment of Musselman’s life.
Eric Musselman pulled up to the Nevada locker room without at shirt on 😂😂😂pic.twitter.com/T5LUzyl6TF
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) March 19, 2018