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Wolf Pack basketball preview: Nevada hits road to face unbeaten Grand Canyon

Rebecca Katz || Nevada Athletics Department

The Nevada Wolf Pack hit the road for its final two non-conference games of the 2020-21 season (pending the rescheduling of the game at USF). The first comes against the Grand Canyon Antelopes Friday at 6 p.m. PST in Phoenix, Ariz. The game will air on ESPN3.

The Antelopes are an unbeaten 3-0, with their three wins coming by an average of 28.7 points per contest.

Their three victories have come over Mississippi Valley State (dead last among 357 teams in the KenPom rankings), Grambling State (No. 334) and Benedictine Mesa of the NAIA.

Grand Canyon’s game versus Prairie View A&M, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, was cancelled due to COVID-19 problems with Prairie View A&M. Friday marks its first game since Dec. 1, which resulted in an 88-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State — its largest margin-of-victory since it joined Division-I prior to the 2013-14 season.

Nevada (No. 116 per KenPom) will be the Grand Canyon’s toughest opponent to date. The Pack are 4-1, coming off an 86-64 home victory over NAIA program William Jessup on Monday.

Nevada (4-1) vs. Grand Canyon (3-0)

When: Friday, Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. PST

Where: GCU Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.

TV: None

Online: ESPN3

Matchup history: Nevada leads 1-0

Last meeting: Nevada won 74-66

Breakdown:

Through three games, Grand Canyon is averaging 83.7 points per game. It is hitting 50.8 percent of its shots and 28.1 percent of its 3-point attempts. It has held its opponents to 55 points on 32.2 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent from beyond the arc.

The Antelopes boast a two-headed monster in the frontcourt in seniors Alessandro Lever (6’10”) and Asbjorn Midtgaard (7’0”).

Lever averages a team-best 16.7 points on 57.6 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. He earned All-WAC second team honors last year, tallying 15.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on 53.5 percent shooting.

The Bolzano, Italy native is more than capable of stretching the floor, knocking down a career 101 3-pointers on a 35.7 percent clip. He is 4-for-8 from deep through three games this season.

Midtgaard, a former teammate of Nevada’s Grant Sherfield at Wichita State, is averaging a team-best 13.0 rebounds — including 3.7 offensive rebounds — and is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game.

His 13.0 rebounds per contest trails Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq (14.3) for the most nationally. In three years with the Shockers, he averaged just 2.6 per game in 9.4 minutes per game.

As a team, the Antelopes have grabbed 50.0 rebounds per game — third-most in Division-I — while out-rebounding its opponents by an average of 22.0 boards per game.

Their top playmaker is Jovan Blacksher, tallying 6.3 assists per game. No other player is averaging more than three. Blackshear, who was named the WAC Freshman of the Year last year, averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 assists in 30 games.

Nevada is averaging 69.4 points per game, including 65.3 points against four Division-I opponents. The Pack are shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 35 percent from beyond the arc.

They are holding opponents to just 34.8 percent with a 28.9 3-point percentage.

Against William Jessup, Sherfield led the Pack with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also recorded team highs in rebounds (6), assists (8) and steals (3).

Sherfield is averaging a team-best 16.4 points per game on 40.7 percent shooting and a 44.4 3-point percentage. Zane Meeks is Nevada’s only other double digit scorer, averaging 10.6 points in 19.4 minutes per contest. He has netted a team-high nine 3-pointers on 52.9 percent shooting from outside.

Warren Washington, who totaled a career high 18 points against William Jessup, is averaging 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Desmond Cambridge is third on the team in scoring with 9.4 points per contest.

Despite not being in the starting lineup, Robby Robinson is averaging a team-high 7.4 rebounds a contest — slightly more than the 6-foot-10 Meeks (7.0).

Projected starting lineups:

No. 5 Nevada Wolf Pack (16-9, 10-7)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 25 Grant Sherfield Soph. 6-2 18.3 3.7 6.1 43.5 36.9
G 4 Desmond Cambridge Jr. 6-4 16.3 4.4 2.4 41.6 35.4
G 14 Tre Coleman Fr. 6-7 5.7 3.0 1.8 42.5 37.1
F 20 Daniel Foster Fr. 6-6 4.3 2.6 1.5 48.6 45.5
F 5 Warren Washington Soph. 7-0 9.6 5.8 0.8 57.4 ------ (0-1)

Grand Canyon Antelopes (3-0)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 10 Javon Blacksher Jr. Soph. 5-11 9.0 3.7 6.3 41.4% 18.2%
G 3 Mikey Dixon Sr. 6-2 5.3 1.0 1.3 43.8% 25.0%
F 4 Oscar Frayer Sr. 6-6 5.0 2.3 2.7 37.5% 28.6%
F 25 Alessandro Lever Sr. 6-11 16.7 6.0 2.7 57.6% 50.0%
C 33 Asbjorn Midtgaard Sr. 7-0 14.3 13.0 0.7 71.4% ------

Prediction:

  • Grand Canyon: 68
  • Nevada: 64

It goes without saying the Pack will need to Pack the paint (yes, that pun was intended) in order to win this game. Grand Canyon has yet to show they are capable to shoot from deep, while Nevada has done a good job defending the deep ball this year. They will need to its best defensive basketball in order to shut down Lever and Midtgaard. It is unknown how good this Grand Canyon team is because of their strength-of-schedule thus far, and Nevada has played much better competition, but I think the Antelopes’ experienced front court could be too much for the Wolf Pack. Season record: 3-2

Additional Links:

Nevada Game Notes: https://bit.ly/375zcbh

Grand Canyon Game Notes: https://bit.ly/3nb0JOd