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Wolf Pack basketball opponent preview: Nevada seeks series split against Wyoming

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

The Nevada Wolf Pack will seek a bounce back performance over the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie, Wyo., on Sunday at 1 p.m. PST. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Nevada dropped the first meeting Friday between the two programs, 71-64. It marked Wyoming’s first conference home victory since March 9, 2019.

The Pack came back down by 20 — outscoring Wyoming 28-7 after trailing 41-21 — to take the 49-48 lead with 7:20 remaining. But they made just four of their last 15 shots, while Wyoming knocked down timely shots to shut down Nevada’s valiant comeback effort.

The Wolf Pack shot 34 percent from the floor on the evening, a season-low among Wyoming opponents through 14 games.

Despite taking seven of the previous eight, Nevada has dropped its last two games against Wyoming. The last four meetings have come from a combined 16 points.

Nevada is fifth in the Mountain West at 5-4. Wyoming is seventh at 3-4.

Wyoming’s arena, dubbed the Arena Auditorium, is the arena at the highest elevation in Division-I at 7,220 feet.

Nevada (10-6, 5-4) vs. Wyoming (9-5, 3-4)

When: Sunday, Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. PST

Where: Arena Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Online: CBS Sports Network

Matchup history: Nevada leads 15-10

Last meeting: Wyoming won 71-64 (Jan. 22, 2021)

Breakdown:

Marcus Williams leads the Cowboys at 16.1 points per game on 47 percent shooting. In the first game, Williams had 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. The true freshman is second on the team in assists (4.1) and tied for atop the team lead in steals (1.1 spg).

Hunter Maldonaldo is second on the team in scoring (14.1 ppg), but leads the team in rebounding (6.4 rpg) and assists (5.1 apg).

Maldonaldo and Williams accounted for 10 of the team’s 15 assists in the first meeting, totaling five apiece.

The Pokes rank in the top-25 nationally in 3-pointers made per game (10.1). They hit eight in the first half Friday, finishing 12-for-37. It was Wyoming’s ninth game with 10-plus 3s this season.

Drake Jefferies leads the team with 2.3 3s made per contest, hitting them at a 41 percent clip. Six Wyoming players average at least one made 3-pointer per game.

As a team, it is shooting 37.4 percent from outside; in seven Mountain West games, it is netting 36.4 percent of its 3-point shots, ranking No. 3 in the conference in such games.

Nevada hasn’t shot well from deep in conference play, netting just 30.8 percent of its attempts. Though it is getting to the free throw line more than any other Mountain West team in such games, averaging 21.8 free throw attempts and ranking third in free throw percentage (.770).

Grant Sherfield leads Nevada in scoring (18.1 ppg), assists (5.6 apg) and steals (1.6 spg). He is shooting 42.7 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Sherfield couldn’t take the lid off the rim Friday — tallying just eight points on 2-of-16 shooting. It snapped a string of six straight 20-plus point games and tied a season-low in scoring for the 6-foot-2 guard. Sherfield has tallied double figure scoring in 14 of the team’s 16 games.

Cambridge is second on the Pack in scoring at 15.2 points per game. He is second on the team in assists (2.6 apg), but third in rebounding (4.6 rpg) and steals (1.0 spg). The 6-foot-4 guard leads the Mountain West in total 3-point field goals (44) and 3-point attempts (128).

On Friday, 7-footer Warren Washington had a career-high 21 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double. Washington is averaging 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season. Despite being plagued with foul trouble and playing just seven minutes (with zero points) against San Diego State on Jan. 9, in his last nine games, Washington is averaging 10.7 points and six rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game.

Nevada saw the debut of Daniel Foster, the fourth freshman to suit up for the Pack this year. He missed the first 15 games due to recovering from a shoulder injury. He had one rebound and two rebounds without a field goal attempt, fouling out after 10 minutes of action.

The Pack also might see a return from 6-foot-10 forward Zane Meeks (knee soreness), who missed the last two games. Meeks, who has started in 10 of his 14 games this year, is averaging 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds on 38.5 percent shooting from deep.

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 75
  • Wyoming: 70

When I made my prediction heading into Friday, it was clear I did not factor in the altitude as much as I should have. That’s a real effect for any opponent, even for Nevada (which plays at slightly over 4,500 feet in Lawlor Events Center). Nevada struggled offensively when it wasn’t at the charity stripe. Though it had a great start, Wyoming’s offense went cold in the second half. It was not the high-scoring affair I anticipated from two above-average offenses. I expect Sherfield to have a bounce-back offensive performance after scoring just eight points in the matchup’s opener. Season record: 12-4

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