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Nevada Basketball: Pack power past Air Force 74-57

Rebecca Katz || Nevada Athletic Department

The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team opened up its 20-game Mountain West conference schedule with a 74-57 victory over the Air Force Falcons on Friday.

The Falcons have struggled mightily to score the basketball. They have registered just 60 points once in five games. After tonight, the team is averaging just 56 points per game, which ranks near the bottom nationally.

Friday’s win advances Nevada to 6-2. Air Force drops to 2-3 on the season.

Friday marked the first contest of two Mountain West opponents this year. The two foes will meet again on Sunday to complete the latter of the two-game set.

Nevada had its best shooting performance against a Division-I foe this season, netting 51.1 percent of its shots and went 38.1 percent from 3-point range.

It had three double-digit scorers. Desmond Cambridge recorded his third straight 20-point performance on the year. He led the Pack with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He is averaging 24.7 points on 46 percent shooting, with an absurd 17 3-pointers in the last three contests.

Warren Washington tallied 16 points — two off from his career high — on a near perfect 6-of-7 shooting. Zane Meeks recorded 14 points, hitting three of his six shots on the evening. Both Washington and Meeks tallied a team-high seven rebounds apiece.

Grant Sherfield, the team’s leading scorer (17.6 ppg) had just eight points, but registered a career-high nine assists with five rebounds.

Both teams mixed in different zone defenses with the general man-to-man scheme. Air Force primarily operated in a 2-3 zone throughout the evening.

Alas, the zone allowed Nevada to dominate on the glass — out-rebounding Air Force 39-23. Its plus-16 margin on the glass is its second-largest mark on the season, two behind its plus-18 margin against Nebraska on Nov. 26.

Air Force shot 41.3 percent — 27.3 percent in the second half — hitting 6-of-17 (35.3 percent) from deep.

The Falcons struggled from the free throw line. They knocked down just 13 of their 23 attempts (56.5 percent) from the charity stripe, including four of their 11 attempts (36.4 percent) in the second half.

True freshman Glen McClintock tallied a career-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. A.J. Walker had a season-high 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from outside.

Air Force’s top scorer heading into the game Chris Joyce was held to just six points on 2-of-7 shooting. Keaton Van Soelen added nine points with team-highs in assists (4) and steals (3).

Both teams were frantic with the rock. The Pack turned the ball over 19 times compared to the Falcons’ 16 turnovers.

A lob finish from Sherfield to Washington gave Nevada the early 12-4 advantage, prompting a Falcon timeout. Cambridge tallied eight of the team’s first 10 points.

Sherfield’s steal-and-score gave the Pack a 23-12 lead with under 12 minutes remaining.

Back-to-back baskets from Washington extended their advantage to 32-18. A three-point conversion from Walker cut Nevada’s lead to 39-29 with 3:54 to go.

Air Force climbed back into the contest — closing the half on a 13-2 in the final 5:21. Nevada did not have a single basket that span, walking into halftime with a 41-39 lead. Both teams were shooting the ball well, with Nevada at 58.3 percent and Air Force at 54.2 percent. Both squads had four 3-pointers apiece.

Cambridge’s corner three gave Nevada the 48-41 lead. Nine straight points — including a four-point play from Sherfield and a three-point play from Washington — awarded the Pack with a 57-46 advantage with 12:50 remaining.

Cambridge’s 3-pointer gave the Pack a 70-56 lead with 4:59 to go. Nevada did not relinquish its double-digit advantage in the final ten minutes of the contest.

Up next:

Both teams will meet for the latter of its two-game set on Sunday at 3 p.m. PST. The game will air on Nevada Sports Net.