LAS VEGAS -- Nevada passed its first challenge away from home this season thanks to Jordan Caroline and the Wolf Pack's free-throw shooting.
Caroline had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 6 Nevada made 35 of 42 free throws to beat Tulsa 96-86 on Thursday in the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Nevada (5-0) will face Massachusetts in the championship game Friday night. Massachusetts beat Southern Illinois 84-62.
"Away from home and getting a win is a positive," Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. "We took a step back from Monday's win (against Cal Baptist). We were lacking from getting stops (defensively). Tulsa is a good team."
"Jazz opens the floor for his teammates," Musselman said. "Offensively, he gets an A-plus, but he's got to get better defensively."
Nevada finally pulled away, building an 80-62 lead with 9:30 left. Tulsa cut it to 88-79 with 3:48 remaining.
"After that, we had a couple bang-bang plays that didn't go our way," Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. "(Nevada) is a good team. My guys played their butts off. We had our chances. We had 38 points in the paint and we always look at that."
The Wolf Pack, who had 28 points in the paint, scored 15 seconds into the game and led throughout. Their largest first-half lead was 14 with 3:11 until halftime. Tulsa was 2 of 12 from 3-point range in the session and finished 7 of 23. Nevada led 46-35 at halftime.
The Wolf Pack are 29-2 when Caroline has double-double. He was 12 of 17 from the free-throw line and 6 of 12 from the field.
"We could have played better," he said. "We still have things to do to get better. Chemistry is good. We have a good connection on the court. I love playing for our guys. Now we have to rest and watch film."
LAS VEGAS CLASSIC
The Wolf Pack played in the Las Vegas Classic last December in the same arena and fell in the championship game to San Francisco 66-64 after playing on back-to-back nights.
"In our game against San Francisco, our guys got tired," Musselman said. "Our guys need to get some rest now for (Massachusetts)."
Nevada: The Wolf Pack's No. 6 ranking is the highest in school history. Nevada is 29-2 when Caroline has a double-double. This was Nevada's first neutral-site game, albeit within the state, eight hours south. Besides its annual Mountain West Conference game at UNLV, Nevada is trying to play more neutral-site games in Las Vegas for its fan base in the southern part of the state.
Tulsa: Before Thursday, the Golden Hurricane were off to their best start under coach Frank Haith. Tulsa scored 38 points in the paint. In their two previous Invitational games at home, Igbanu averaged 20.5 points.
ONCE CONFERENCE FOES
Nevada leads the series 8-6, winning the last six. The teams were part of the Western Athletic Conference from 2000-05.
Nevada: Vs. Massachusetts on Friday in the championship game.
Tulsa: Vs. Southern Illinois on Friday in the consolation game.
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