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Wolf Pack basketball opponent preview: Nevada begins two-game road trip against Wyoming

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

After a quick two-game home stint, the Nevada Wolf Pack hit the road to take on the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie, Wyo., for a two-game set beginning Friday at 6 p.m. PST.

The three meetings between the teams last year all came down to the final seconds. Nevada won the first two but lost the final meeting, which resulted in an elimination from the Mountain West tournament 74-71.

Nevada has won seven of the last nine meetings between the two programs and lead the all-time series 15-9.

Nevada sports the fourth-best record in the conference at 5-3. Wyoming is tied for seventh with Air Force at 2-4 — already matching its conference win total set last year.

The Pack are coming off a two-game sweep over the Fresno State Bulldogs. They cruised in their two victories, winning by a combined 30 points.

Wyoming is coming off a two-game split against the Air Force Falcons. It took the latter contest 77-58 Tuesday, snapping a four-game losing streak. It hit 16 3-pointers, the most in a game since Feb. 17, 2018 versus San Jose State.

Nevada (10-5, 5-3) vs. Wyoming (8-5, 2-4)

When: Friday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. PST

Where: Arena Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo.

TV: Stadium, Nevada Sports Net

Online: http://nevadasportsnet.com/watch

Matchup history: Nevada leads 15-9

Last meeting: Wyoming won 74-71 (March 5, 2020)

Breakdown:

Under Allen Edwards, Wyoming was typically good defensively and below average offensively.

This year, that’s the opposite.

Wyoming has been much better offensively under head coach Jeff Linder in his first year with the program.

It is scoring 78 points per game, though it’s averaged 69.2 points in six Mountain Wests contests versus Fresno State, Boise State and Air Force. On the year, Wyoming is shooting 45.8 percent shooting with a 37.9 3-point percentage.

The Cowboys have been bad defensively in Mountain West play, surrendering 76.3 points per contest at a 52.2 percent clip — both ranking among the bottom-two in the conference. They rank among the worst in field goal percentage on shots inside-the-arc at 62.4 percent.

Per hoop math, Wyoming’s surrendering a dismal 63.5 field goal percentage on shots at the rim on the season.

True freshman Marcus Williams leads the Cowboys — ranking No. 6 in the Mountain West — in scoring at 16.3 points per contest, scoring in double figures in each of his 13 games.

Williams, who will likely finish as a finalist for the conference’s Freshman of the Year award, is shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 32.7 percent from 3-point range.

In the last five games, Williams is netting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc on 4.2 3-point attempts per contest. The 6-foot-2 guard is also second on the team in assists — dishing out 3.9 assists per game.

Despite undergoing lower scoring numbers this year due to the presence of Williams, Hunter Maldonado is averaging 14.1 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting. Maldonado is dishing a team-most 5.2 assists and hauling in a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game.

Nevada is No. 6 in the conference in scoring (71.6 ppg) and in 3-point percentage (.348), while placing No. 7 in field goal percentage (.445). The Pack rank in the top-5 in the conference in scoring defense (65.9 ppg), opponents field goal percentage allowed (.395) and opponents 3-point percentage allowed (.320).

In conference play, the Pack have gotten to the free throw line more than anyone else, shooting 21.5 free throw attempts per game at a 77.3 percent clip.

Grant Sherfield has been one of the most dominant guards in the Mountain West, averaging team-highs in scoring (18.7 ppg), assists (5.7 apg) and steals (1.7 spg).

In eight Mountain West games, Sherfield is averaging 19.8 points and 6.1 assists per game on 46.3 percent shooting and 39 percent from deep. His 19.8 points trails UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton for the most among Mountain West players in such games; his 6.1 assists also ranks second behind Colorado State’s Isaiah Stevens.

Desmond Cambridge is second on the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game on 39.7 shooting with a 35 percent from beyond the arc.

The former Brown transfer is second on the team in assists (2.7 apg) and steals (1.0 spg) and third in rebounding (4.7 rpg). Since conference play began, the 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.

Starting forward Zane Meeks (knee), who sat out Sunday, is a game-time decision for Friday’s contest. He is averaging 9.1 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds in 23.0 minutes per game. Meeks is the team’s lone outside threat from the forward position, netting 38.5 percent of his shots from outside.

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 81
  • Wyoming: 71

Wyoming has been much worse in conference play than they were in non-conference. It boasted the No. 319-ranked non-conference schedule in the country per Ken Pom. In their four conference losses, the Cowboys lost by a combined 66 points; with their two wins coming by a combined 23 points. To be fair, their two conference victories to Fresno State and Air Force came on the road, while their two home losses came to the Mountain West’s best team in Boise State. It is hard to judge how they have been so far. But the combination of Sherfield, Cambridge and 7-footer Warren Washington could gash the porous Cowboy defense. Season record: 12-3

Projected Starting 5:

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)

Wyoming Cowboys (9-5, 3-4)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 1 Marcus Williams Fr. 6-2 16.1 3.4 4.0 47.0 29.8
G 3 Kwane Marble II Soph. 6-6 9.5 3.8 1.3 52.0 43.8
G 22 Kenny Foster Soph. 6-5 10.3 4.2 0.8 49.4 44.4
G 24 Hunter Maldonado Jr. 6-7 13.6 6.4 5.1 41.2 27.8
F 10 Hunter Thompson Jr. 6-10 8.2 4.6 0.8 46.9 37.3

Additional links:

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

Wyoming Game Notes: https://bit.ly/366hVy1

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/362GYlB