clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wolf Pack basketball opponent preview: Nevada opens conference schedule with Air Force

David Calvert || Nevada Athletic Department

The Nevada Wolf Pack hosts the Air Force Falcons in a two-game series to open its conference schedule. The two bouts will be Friday, Dec. 18 and Sunday, Dec. 20. Both games will be aired on Nevada Sports Net.

Because the conference is attempting to rightfully limit travel and initiate easier contact tracing because of COVID-19, this will be the first year where there will be a two-game series implemented into the conference schedule for each opponent. Each team will play 20 conference games, with five home and road two-game sets.

Friday marks the first conference opponent for each squad.

Air Force seeks to snap a string of nine consecutive losses to the Wolf Pack that dates back to 2015. It has also never won at Lawlor Events Center, where it is 0-7.

Air Force head coach Joe Scott is in the first season of a second stint with the Falcons, where he was also the head coach from 2000-04. In the 2003-04 season, he led Air Force to its first ever Mountain West regular season title and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1961-62. Including this year, he is 237-242 (.495) in his career as head coach.

The Falcons enter off a 81-53 loss to Drake Sunday. The team shot just 34.7 percent with a dismal 22.2 3-point percentage on 18 attempts.

After blowing a 13-point lead, Nevada escaped with an 79-72 win over San Diego Monday behind strong performances from junior guards Desmond Cambridge (27 points) and Grant Sherfield (25 points).

Nevada (5-2, 0-0) vs. Air Force (2-2, 0-0)

When: Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. PST

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV: Nevada Sports Net (locally)

Online: Nevada Sports Net

Matchup history: Nevada leads 13-2

Last meeting: Nevada won 88-54

Breakdown:

The Falcons have averaged just 55.8 points in their first four games this year — 17.3 points fewer than their seasonal average last year. It is shooting 43.9 percent with a 36.9 3-point percentage.

The scoring is led by senior guard Chris Joyce, who bumped up his scoring severely this year. Last year, Joyce averaged just 6.6 points; this year, the 6-foot-5 guard is totaling 15.8 points per contest through the team’s first four games.

He is shooting 50.0 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc this year, adding 2.8 rebounds per game. Joyce has tied his career-high mark of 23 points twice this year against CSUN and Lamar already.

AJ Walker, Air Force’s only returning starter from last year’s team, is averaging nine points a contest. Though it is a small sample, he has not undergone the same efficiency as the previous year. This year, the junior guard is netting just 33.3 percent of his shots and 28.6 percent of his 3-pointers. For comparison, Walker shot 44.8 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Walker leads the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg), tied for first with Keaton Van Soelen in assists (2.5 apg) and second in steals (1.5 spg).

Van Soelen is second in scoring, but has been the Falcons’ most efficient scorer. He is scoring 9.8 points per contest, but is netting 58.3 percent of his shots and 50.0 percent of his 3-pointers — boasting an impressive 68.8 percent effective field goal percentage.

After a slow start offensively to begin the season, Nevada is scoring 71.9 points per game. The Pack have scored 77 points or more in each of the last three games, averaging 80.7 points in that span.

Grant Sherfield is atop the Pack in scoring at 17.6 points per game. He is shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. Sherfield ranks atop the team in assists (5.1 apg) and steals (1.9 spg) and is fourth in rebounding (4.1 rpg).

Desmond Cambridge is tallying 14.0 points — 25.5 in the last two games — on 38.9 percent shooting, including 33.3 percent from 3-point range. He is second in assists (2.4 apg) and third in steals (1.0 spg).

Nearly 60 percent (57-of-97) of Cambridge’s shots have been from beyond the arc, including 70.5 percent (24-of-34) in the last two contests, which unlocked his two highest scoring games of the season at 24 and 27 points.

Zane Meeks is third in scoring at 9.4 points, but leads the Pack in rebounding with 6.1 boards in 21.3 minutes per game. He is also second on the team in 3-point percentage (.474) and third in total 3-point makes (9).

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 74
  • Air Force: 65

Under Scott, the Falcons have gotten off to a much better defensive start. They have surrendered just 62.2 points per game, allowing opponents to shoot 38.1 percent with a 31.4 3-point percentage this year. Scott’s teams have led the nation in fewest points allowed (2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06); he instills a defensive-minded grit that previous Air Force teams have lacked. With a group that loses four of its five starters, it will take time to inherit. Though the overall numbers are good, the defense has been inconsistent through four games and are coming off its worst defensive showing of the season. Drake netted 56.4 percent of its shots with 10 3-pointers. Coincidentally, Nevada is coming off one its best offensive performance against the Division-I foe this year. The Pack offense is beginning to gel, plus Cambridge and Sherfield — the team’s two best playmakers — are playing their best brands of basketball (that we’ve seen) this year, a great recipe to success for this young Wolf Pack team. Season record: 5-2

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)

Air Force Falcons (2-3)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 5 Chris Joyce Sr. 6-5 13.8 2.6 2.0 46.7 37.5
G 10 A.J. Walker Jr. 6-2 10.0 3.8 2.4 37.0 33.3
G 44 Keaton Van Soelen Sr. 6-7 9.6 4.0 2.8 55.2 41.7
G 2 Glen McClintock Fr. 6-2 7.2 4.2 1.6 42.9 44.4
F 22 Nikc Jackson Soph. 6-8 5.8 4.4 1.2 37.9 30.0

Additional Links:

Nevada Game Notes: https://bit.ly/3gYr8MO

Air Force Game notes: https://bit.ly/3oWvbMu

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/3p5Fw9c