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Wolf Pack Preview: Nevada Basketball looks for bounce back victory versus Utah State

Nevada Athletics Department

Nevada (10-6, 3-1) vs Utah State (13-5, 2-3)

When: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, at 5 p.m. PST

Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, UT

TV: CBS Sports Network

Matchup History: Utah State leads 36-23


Nevada men’s basketball concludes its two-game road trip versus the Utah State Aggies (13-5, 2-3) on Saturday evening.

The Aggies are on a three-game slide, including a 79-60 loss in its most recent affair versus Air Force. Sophomore guard Brock Miller led the Aggies with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor.

Utah State has historically played Nevada tough in Logan, UT, going 20-5 against the Pack at home in the matchup’s history. However, Nevada has been victorious in five of its last six meetings in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, with the loss appearing last season in an 81-76 defeat.

The Aggies have been incredibly efficient in the scoring category this season, ranking No. 2 in the conference -- T-46 in the nation -- with 78.2 points per game this season. They are No. 6 in the conference in field goal percentage (.449) and No. 5 in three-point field goal percentage (.330).

However, this group is most known for their production at the free-throw line, something to look out for during tomorrow’s showdown. Utah State has hit more free throws (303) than its opponents have attempted (263) -- hitting them at a 75.9 percent clip. The 303 free throws made are second-most in the nation, only trailing in-conference foe New Mexico.

Reigning MWC Player of the Year Sam Merrill leads Utah State at 17.3 points per game. The senior guard has had a down year in terms of efficiency, posting a career-worst 41.1 field goal percentage. However, his 39.6 three-point percentage is up from a year ago, while he is shooting 87.1 percent from the free-throw line.

Washington v Utah State
Sam Merrill #5 of the Utah State Aggies shoots against Hameir Wright #13 and Matisse Thybulle #4 of the Washington Huskies during the first half of the game in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Justin Bean (13.4 ppg), Alphonso Anderson (10.4 ppg) and Miller (10.1 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers for the Aggies.

Bean has been sensational for the Aggies thus far. Starting in all 18 games, the 6-foot-7 forward leads the conference in rebounding (10.6 rpg), posting a double-double in ten games this season. He is also averaging 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, the only player in the conference to rank in the Top-7 in both of those categories.

Miller has a quick trigger from deep, taking 70 percent of his shots from beyond the arc at a 32.8 percent clip. Anderson has been a solid two-way wing for head coach Craig Smith, averaging 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 22.8 minutes per contest.

Sophomore Neemias Queta -- one of Utah State’s most important players -- has made a huge impact since returning from injury. The reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 9.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in six games. Due to early minutes restrictions, the 6-foot-11 forward has only logged 20.0 minutes per game, but expect that number to slowly rise in the foreseeable future.

Nevada is coming off its first conference loss of the season, falling 70-68 to San Jose State (6-11, 2-3) on Wednesday. Senior guard Jalen Harris led the group with 20 points and five assists.

Harris tops the Pack with 17.4 points -- third-most in the conference -- and 6.5 rebounds per game. He is shooting 41.5 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from deep.

Jazz Johnson (17.1 ppg) and Lindsey Drew (12.9 ppg) are the only other double-digit Pack scorers.

Johnson’s 17.1 points per game ranks No. 6 in the conference. The 5-foot-10 sharpshooter is shooting 45 percent from deep, topping the conference in total three-pointers made (54) and three-pointers made per game (3.4).

Drew is averaging a team-high 4.5 assists, and second on the team in rebounding at 5.8 rebounds per game. Drew is also shooting a career-best 54.9 percent from the floor.

The Wolf Pack have been quite efficient in its three-point shooting, nailing 38.7 percent of its attempts, T-14 best across Division-I. Nevada has also made 157 of its threes, T-14 most too.

Projected Lineups:


Utah State:

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Nevada will look to go 4-1 in conference play versus Utah State.