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Pack Preview: Nevada takes on experienced Akron squad

Wolf Pack move back up to No. 6 in AP Poll

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Tulsa Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The sixth-ranked Nevada Wolf Pack will put their 11-0 record to the test against the 7-4 Akron Zips Saturday, Dec. 22, putting a stamp on the Pack’s final non-conference home game this season.

Led by AP preseason All-American Caleb Martin and three-time Mountain West Player of the Week Jordan Caroline, Nevada remains among the eight unbeaten teams in the country. It hasn’t come easy the past few games, as the Pack were forced to claw their way back from several halftime deficits.

The Pack have one halftime lead over the past four games, much of that can be chucked up to a lack of offense to start the game, which has been an Achilles heel this season. Nevada has averaged just 39 points per game in the first half, but the experienced bunch outscore opponents 498-393. Nevada has looked like a different team in the second half on both ends of the floor.

Junior guard Jazz Johnson’s status for the upcoming game is still up in the air, he suffered a concussion in a 74-66 win over Grand Canyon Dec. 9. Senior point forward Cody Martin may earn himself even more minutes as a result, he leads the Mountain West in assists per game (6.1) and assist to turnover ratio (3.3 a/to).

Akron looks to be another tough test for the Pack. The Zips are 7-4 this season and currently stand in first place in the MAC East. Similar to Nevada, Akron is another experienced team on the floor with an even mix of seniors, juniors and sophomore.

The trio of Daniel Utomi, Loren Cristian Jackson and Jimond Ivey are the primary scorers for the Zips. All three players average over 13 points and three rebounds per game. Utomi leads the team with 15.9 points per game this season.

Akron is a balanced team offensively, they’ve shot 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from three, but they’ve also attempted 224 free throw attempts this season. The Zips have pulled down 300 defensive rebounds as well, which ranks in the upper-half of the MAC East.

The Pack may look to build some consistency in both halves, and their overall depth and defensive versatility may overwhelm Akron. Expect Nevada to improve to 12-0 when it’s all said and done.