Coming off a bounce back win on the road over Air Force on Wednesday, the Nevada Wolf Pack (20-6, 9-4) return to home to face the Utah State Aggies (11-14, 5-9) on Saturday afternoon in Reno.
The Wolf Pack are looking to avenge a brutal road loss to the Aggies by a score of 74-57 back on February 1st. It was a game in which the Wolf Pack only shot 32 percent from the field and had a poor overall showing that night in Logan, Utah. Now, the Wolf Pack plan to be locked in as they face an Aggies team with the possibility that a victory or defeat could possibly determine whether Nevada wins the Mountain West regular season championship.
The Wolf Pack got back on the winning track on Wednesday after a rough road loss to San Diego State last Sunday by making a few changes to the starting line-up. Wolf Pack head coach Eric Musselman removed Cameron Oliver and Lindsey Drew from the starting line-up and implemented Leland King and Josh Hall in their place. That move propelled Cameron Oliver, who has been a bit inconsistent this season, to his best game of the season as he scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. The result of the line-up change was the Wolf Pack easily handling the Falcons 78-59 on Wednesday night.
The Wolf Pack, as a team, dominated the Falcons as they shot 52 percent from the field and made 13 three-pointers in the win. On defense, Nevada held Air Force to 39 percent shooting from the field and the Wolf Pack outrebounded the Falcons 42-22 which was the largest margin of the year for Nevada.
The Wolf Pack will need a similar type of performance today as they face a Utah State team that has some talent on their team despite their sub-.500 record. Koby McEwen and Jalen Moore are two of the more talented players in the Mountain West and both players should get some all-conference considerations for their stellar play this season.
In the first meeting between the Wolf Pack and the Aggies, McEwen scored 26 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and Moore chipped in with 13 points and 15 rebounds. The Wolf Pack will need to stop McEwen from getting hot and keep Moore off the glass for Nevada to win on Saturday.
Another key for the Wolf Pack to win on Saturday will be that they need to take better shots like they did against Air Force. In the first meeting against Utah State, Nevada only shot 31.9 percent from the field and failed to get good shots as they settled for low-percentage shots in the losing effort. Utah State’s defense is third worse in the conference so Nevada needs to get better, high percentage shots and better ball movement to attack the Aggies vulnerable defense.
Utah State is a team that has some talented players such as McEwen and Moore that will challenge Nevada on the defensive end but the Aggies are not a good defensive team themselves and are 0-6 on the road in conference play this season. I think Nevada’s offense is getting it together and that should be enough for them to secure the win and stay in the race for the top spot in the Mountain West conference standings.