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Wolf Pack basketball opponent preview: Nevada closes two-game set with Air Force Sunday

David Calvert || Nevada Athletics Department

The Nevada Wolf Pack cap of its two-game series versus the Air Force Falcons Sunday at 3 p.m. PST inside Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev. Nevada beat Air Force 74-57 Friday — the matchup between two Mountain West opponents in the conference this year.

Air Force is winless in Lawlor Events Center in eight tries and have beaten the Pack in their last ten meetings. Nevada is 13-2 all-time versus the Falcons.

Nevada has won three of its last four games and six of its first eight to begin the season. Air Force has started 2-3 and has dropped in two three of its last four.

Nevada (6-2, 1-0) vs. Air Force (2-3, 0-1)

When: Sunday, Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. PST

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV: Nevada Sports Net (locally)

Online: Nevada Sports Net, Mountain West Network

Matchup history: Nevada leads 14-2

Last meeting: Nevada won 74-57

Breakdown:

As I illuminated in the first opponent preview and in Friday’s postgame recap, Air Force has struggled scoring the ball to begin its 2020-21 season.

The Falcons have reached 60 or more points just once in their first five games this season — scoring 66 against Cal State Northridge in their season-opener. In total, they are averaging 56 points per contest — T-315 in the country.

According to KenPom’s efficiency rankings, the Falcons are No. 263 out of 357 teams charted in offensive efficiency (through Dec. 19). They are shooting 42.0 percent on the year and 35.6 percent from 3-point range.

Chris Joyce leads the team in scoring — averaging 13.6 points after averaging just 6.2 points in his previous three seasons with the academy. Joyce is shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from outside. The 6-foot-5 senior guard has registered a team-high nine 3-pointers this season.

On Friday, Joyce was limited to just six points on 2-of-7 shooting, dishing a team-high four assists.

A.J. Walker is averaging 10 points on 37.0 percent shooting and 39.3 percent from deep. He tied a season-high of 14 points against the Pack Friday.

Nevada is averaging 72.7 points on 44.6 percent shooting and 38.1 percent from 3-point range. In its last four games, the team is averaging 79 points on 49.1 percent shooting from the floor with a 38.1 3-point percentage.

Grant Sherfield is Nevada’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting and 44.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Sherfield has also totaled team-highs in assists (5.6 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and is fourth in rebounding (4.3).

In the first showing against Air Force, the do-it-all point guard recorded eight points, but dished out a career-most nine assists and corralled five rebounds.

Desmond Cambridge is second in scoring with 15.1 points per game. He is shooting 39.6 percent with a 34.9 3-point percentage.

Cambridge has been a human torch in the past three games — tallying three straight 20-point (24, 27 and 23) performances. He has knocked down 17 3-pointers on a 51.5 percent clip in that span.

Zane Meeks is Nevada’s third and final double digit sorcerer. The stretch five is averaging 10.0 points on 45.5 percent shooting from deep, tallying in a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game.

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

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)

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 77
  • Air Force: 60

Friday was a sloppy contest for both teams. Nevada turned the ball over 19 times while Air Force turned it over 16 times. Both teams committed a plethora of fouls (Nevada - 25; Air Force - 20). Nevada missed nine free throws; Air Force missed 10. Though it was an imperfect contest, Nevada still won by nearly 20. It did severed the Air Force 2-3 zone, while tightening up defensively against the different basket cuts, flare screens and vicious Falcon offensive movements in the second half.The Pack used its size advantage on the glass — out rebounding the under-sized Falcons 39-23 on the glass. Correlating with Cambridge’s emergence, Nevada’s offense has been cruising lately, and I don’t see it slowing down on Sunday. Both teams will make further adjustments, but Air Force will likely have to out-shoot Nevada coupled with playing suffocating defense (in its 2-3 zone) in order to beat the Pack on their floor Sunday. Season record: 6-2

Additional links:

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/3h2kPb8