Sweet 16 bound: Cardiac Pack stuns Cincinnati

In a comeback for the ages, Wolf Pack rallies from 22 points down to advance to Sweet 16 for first time since 2004

Josh Hall drives the lane

Sweet 16 bound: Cardiac Pack stuns Cincinnati

In a comeback for the ages, Wolf Pack rallies from 22 points down to advance to Sweet 16 for first time since 2004

Josh Hall drives the lane

How do you make the impossible a reality? How do you make a comeback in the NCAA Tournament something worth re-telling for years to come? How do make sure you are never forgotten?

How about doing what the Nevada Wolf Pack did Sunday during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from a 22-point second-half deficit to stun No. 2 Cincinnati for a 75-73 victory at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., to advance to the University's first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004.

The Wolf Pack never led in the game until Josh Hall's floater in the lane off a Cody Martin miss put the Pack up, 75-73, with only nine seconds remaining. Cincinnati, 31-5, couldn't get a shot off on its final possession and suddenly the 29-7 Wolf Pack, who had trailed by 22 points with 11 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game, was in the Sweet Sixteen.

Nevada will meet another Sweet Sixteen surprise, Loyola of Chicago, in the South Region semifinal in Atlanta on Thursday.

The comeback was the Wolf Pack's second show of resiliency in three days. On Friday, Nevada rallied from 14 points behind in the second half to down to Texas in a first-round game before rallying to win 87-83 in overtime.

Third-year Wolf Pack Coach Eric Musselman, who has become something of a cult figure throughout the country for his post-game celebrations, didn't disappoint afterward. He tore off his dress shirt and ran into the Wolf Pack's locker room. Bare-chested, he was soaked in water by his joyous players.

The Wolf Pack's comeback is the second greatest in NCAA Tournament history. The effort capped an extraordinary run, which saw the Pack outscore the Bearcats, 32-8 down the stretch.

Cody Martin led the way for the Pack with a game-high 25 points, seven assists, six rebounds and no turnovers. Cody Martin's aggressive dribble penetration against Cincinnati's tight interior defense, Nevada's ability to maximize its own possessions by not turning the ball over (only two all game) while Cincinnati dominated the boards, along with Nevada's trapping second-half defense, were among the key differences in the game.

Cody's three-point play with 3:53 to play drew Nevada to 71-68, setting the stage for the wild finish.

Twin brother Caleb Martin was saddled with early foul trouble in the first half but came back to score 10 points. Caleb's three-pointer tied the score at 73 with 54 seconds left.

Hall finished with 14 points. Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens finished with 13 points.

Early in the second half, it looked as if the Wolf Pack would have to be content with one NCAA Tournament victory, a regular season Mountain West Championship and the knowledge that another important building block had been put in place for the program since Musselman took over three seasons ago.

In short order, Cody Martin was called for a technical after making a basket. Then Musselman was also called for a technical not long after.

The technical fouls actually seemed to help the Wolf Pack's energy. In addition, Musselman extended the Pack's defense, going with full-court and half-court traps, which forced Cincinnati out of its more patterned offense of deliberately working the ball inside. The Bearcats started to take too many jump shots, stopped working the ball inside, and didn't make a field goal over the final five-plus minutes of the game.

Nevada, meanwhile, only turned the ball over twice all game and was on fire down the stretch offensively. Nevada's 16-0 run cut Cincinnati's lead to 65-59 with less than eight minutes to play.

From there, it was time to stage an improbable comeback - something Wolf Pack fans will never forget.

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