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Wolf Pack basketball preview: Nevada hosts San Francisco in the first of two scheduled between programs

David Calvert || Nevada Athletics

The Nevada Wolf Pack host the San Francisco Dons Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m. and will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.

It marks the first of a home-road series between the two squads, with the latter scheduled to play on Sunday.

San Francisco head coach Todd Golden is coming off a 22-12 season, finishing 9-7 in West Coast Conference play, in his first season with the Dons. It was the team’s fourth straight 20-win campaign. USF was predicted to finish as the fifth-best team in the preseason West Coast Conference poll entering 2020-21.

In its most recent game, the Dons fell to Rhode Island 84-71 — just two days after downing No. 4 Virginia 61-60. Their win against Virginia was the first win against a top-5 team since they beat No. 2 Wichita State in the 1981-82 season.

Against URI, Jamaree Bouyea totaled his second 20-point game of the season, finishing with 22 on 8-of-17 shooting with a team-high five assists and four rebounds.

They played their first four games at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., informally dubbed “Bubbleville.” The site is in the midst of hosting to 45 college basketball games in 11 days (Nov. 25 - Dec. 5) from teams all across America. Check out more how it works here.

Nevada head coach Steve Alford enters his second season with the Pack. Nevada is coming off a 19-12 season with a 12-6 Mountain West record.

The Wolf Pack earned their third straight win Monday with a 70-58 victory over the Pacific Tigers in their home opener. Zane Meeks recorded his first career double-double, totaling a team-high 18 points — 13 in the second half — with 11 rebounds. Grant Sherfield added 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Nevada (3-0) vs. San Francisco (2-2)

When: Wednesday Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. PST

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV: None

Online: Mountain West Network

Spread: Nevada -3

Matchup history: San Francisco leads 47-32

Last meeting: San Francisco won 66-64 (Dec. 23, 2017)

Breakdown:

San Francisco is averaging 69.8 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from 3-point range through its first four games. It is allowing 72.0 points at a 44.3 percent clip from the floor and 30.9 percent from deep.

The Dons lost a considerable amount of experience from last year’s team. They graduated Jimbo Lull, Jordan Ratinho, Remu Ratanen, while its top scorer Charles Minlend transferred as a graduate to Louisville. The quartet combined for 10,709 career minutes and 3,994 points with the program.

Bouyea, who was named to the All-WCC preseason team, is the team’s most notable returner. He is averaging team-highs in scoring (19.0 ppg), assists (5.3 apg) and steals (1.5 spg). Bouyea has connected on 51.9 percent of his shots and is shooting 35.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Khalil Shabazz is second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.3 points per contest on 35.5 percent shooting. Shabazz and Bouyea account for over 50 percent of the team’s scoring.

Dzmitry Ryuny has been a spark plug as a stretch-big off the bench, averaging 12.5 points on 42.9 shooting from deep. The 6-foot-9 forward is also averaging a team-best 6.3 rebounds in 27 minutes per contest.

The Pack have been superb defensively over their first three games, holding opponents to 57.3 points — ranking No. 31 nationally. Opponents are hitting 30.8 percent of their shots — 10th-lowest in the nation — and 23.9 percent from 3-point range. Their defense ranks No. 84 on Ken Pom’s rankings and No. 95 in Barttorvik’s rankings.

Nevada’s offense has been passable. It has averaged 67.0 points per game, shooting 42.0 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. Although, it has struggled from the free throw line — netting just 66.1 percent of its attempts from the charity stripe.

The Pack offense ranks No. 125 (per Barttorvik) in the nation and No. 130 (per KenPom).

Sherfield, a former Wichita State transfer, has emerged as the team’s best player. He tops the team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points on 38.5 percent of his shots and 33.3 percent of his field goal attempts. He is tied with Meeks and Desmond Cambridge for the team lead in total made 3-pointers (5).

Sherfield has also seen substantially more time than anyone else at 34.3 minutes — nine minutes per game more than the second-highest player (Cambridge - 25.3 mpg). That has been a byproduct of Sherfield’s quality play and the team getting into foul trouble. Four players are averaging five or more fouls per 40 minutes.

Listed at 6-foot-2, Sherfield is an excellent rebounder for his size (4.3 rpg), while being the primary initiator on the offense with 5.3 assists per game — three more than the next highest player. he has initiated defense at the point-of-attack, totaling a team-high 1.7 steals per game.

Cambridge is second on the team in scoring (11.0 ppg), netting 38.2 percent of his shots from the floor and a lowly 22.7 percent from deep.

Tre Coleman, a true freshman, is tied with Cambridge and guard Kane Milling for the most minutes on the team with 76. Coleman is averaging 7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, while Milling is posting 5.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest.

Projected Starters:

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)

San Francisco Dons (2-2)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 0 Khalil Shabazz Jr. 6-1 16.3 3.0 0.8 35.5% 31.3%
G 1 Jamaree Bouyea Sr. 6-2 19.0 3.0 5.3 51.9% 35.0%
G 11 Damari Milstead Jr. 6-2 5.3 3.0 1.8 29.2% 30.0%
F 34 Taavi Jurkatamm Sr. 6-9 6.0 3.5 2.3 34.5% 27.3%
C 43 Samba Kane Jr. 7-0 3.5 4.3 0.3 60.0 -----

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 68
  • San Francisco: 64

The Wolf Pack will have to have another solid defensive performance in order to win this game. The Dons will not be afraid to hack it up. They hoist 31.8 3-point attempts per game — 19th-most in the Division-I — connecting on 10.5 of them. USF has knocked 13 3-pointers apiece in its two wins on 42.9 percent shooting from deep; in losses, it’s averaged eight made 3-pointers at a 24.2 percent clip. San Francisco will live and die by the 3-pointer. Nevada must continue to defend well from deep and hope the Dons go cold. Nevada has also grabbed the 9th-most defensive rebounds per game across the country (35.7). San Francisco has lacked in the rebounding margin — getting out-rebounded by 4.7 rebounds per game and allowing its opponents to grab 38.5 rebounds per game. With 30-plus 3-pointers expected to be hoisted, the Pack will be forced to grab a lot of long rebounds to limit the Dons to one possession. Alford talked about how Nevada’s successfully worn down its first three opponents, and it might have to again on Wednesday against the nation’s 90th-best offense, the best it’s faced to date (per KenPom). Season record: 2-1