The Nevada Wolf Pack head down to southern California on Sunday afternoon as they face-off against the San Diego State Aztecs in the second meeting of the season between the two schools. In the first meeting, the Wolf Pack defeated the Aztecs 72-69 to give Nevada their first win against SDSU since Nevada joined the Mountain West in 2012.
The Wolf Pack will now attempt to secure a very rare win at San Diego State for they are just 1-5 all-time there and their only win came in 1998. None of the Wolf Pack’s last three games at Viejas Arena were close as they were blown out in all three of those contests.
But this SDSU team is not as good as previous teams and despite a winning home record and a defense that is still tops in the conference (allowing only 63.9 ppg), the Aztecs have been inconsistent this season, struggled to score (scoring only 70 ppg) and are coming off a loss to San Jose State 76-71 on Tuesday night which was the Aztecs first loss to the Spartans since 1999.
The Wolf Pack however are flying high after a dominating performance on Wednesday night over their in-state rivals the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 104-77. Nevada is aware that they must put that victory behind them and focus on an Aztecs team that is in a must-win situation.
“The UNLV game added a lot to our confidence, but I know every game has its own identity and every time the ball’s thrown up by the refs to start the game there’s a new ball game”, said Nevada head coach Eric Musselman this week.
For Nevada to secure the sweep of the Aztecs, they must bottle up Malik Pope. The 6-10 forward is averaging close to ten points per game this season and five rebounds and despite injury issues this season, the Wolf Pack must account for him on the court.
“With his size at 6-10, he can shoot the ball, he can put the ball on the deck and he can post up,” Musselman said. He also went on to say that ‘he’s a range rebounder, he’s a really talented player and he adds a whole different dimension for them”.
Nevada must also crash glass for them to win on the road on Sunday. In past seasons, the Aztecs were a strong rebounding team but that is not the case this season as they have struggled as they are second to last in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage. Nevada was a plus-12 on the boards when they defeated SDSU last month and will need that type of rebounding performance from Cameron Oliver, Jordan Caroline and company to win in San Diego.
To state the obvious, this is an important game for the Wolf Pack as they are in a dog fight for first place in the Mountain West with Boise State and Colorado State. They cannot afford another road slip-up like they had on February 1st against Utah State. San Diego State is a good team at home but this is not the same SDSU team from years past and the Wolf Pack’s offense is playing exceptionally well coming of that historic victory over UNLV on Wednesday night. I think the Wolf Pack will continue their hot shooting and get their second victory in San Diego since 1998 on Sunday afternoon.