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Wolf Pack opponent basketball preview: Nevada returns home to face intrastate rival UNLV

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

The Nevada Wolf Pack begin its only four-game homestand of the season Sunday, hosting intrastate rival UNLV at 6:30 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1. It’s the first of a two-game series, with the latter meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. PST. The Pack are 5-2 at home this season while 5-5 elsewhere.

They have a current six-game winning streak over the Rebels and are victors in 12 of their last 16 meetings.

UNLV will be coming off short rest to play Nevada, with its most recent game coming Wednesday in an 83-74 loss against Utah State that snapped a five-game winning streak. Sunday marks UNLV’s fourth game in 10 days.

Nevada will have had a week off, last playing Sunday in a 93-88 loss to Wyoming. Its 88 points scored was the most its notched all season while, in turn, Sunday marked the first 90-plus point game for any Nevada opponent.

The two Silver State rivals are tied for fifth in the Mountain West. Nevada is 5-5 and UNLV is 3-3.

Nevada (10-7, 5-5) vs. UNLV (6-7, 3-3)

When: Sunday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. PST

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Online: Fox Sports Go

Matchup history: UNLV leads 60-31

Last meeting: Nevada won 72-69 in OT (Feb. 12, 2020)

Breakdown:

UNLV places No. 6 in the Mountain West in scoring (73.2 ppg) and No. 7 in field goal percentage (.444), but rank No. 3 in 3-point percentage (.362) with the second-most 3-point makes per game (9.8).

The Rebels largely rely on the outside shot. A conference-high 42.3 percent of their points coming from distance — the fifth-highest percentage in the nation.

Reigning first-team All Mountain West honoree Bryce Hamilton has continued his offensive dominance. The junior guard is tallying team-bests in scoring (18.3 ppg), assists (3.7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) — all ranking among the top-5 in the conference. He is shooting 42.2 percent and 32.4 percent from deep in 12 games.

In six conference games, Hamilton has registered the most steals in the Mountain West (2.8 spg) with the fifth-highest scoring output (16.7 ppg).

Hamilton is paired with former South Dakota State transfer David Jenkins, who sat out last year due to the NCAA Transfer Policy. Jenkins is averaging 15.8 points on 41.6 percent shooting. On Wednesday, Jenkins had a season-high 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

UNLV’s Cheikh Mbacke Diong, a 6-foot-11 forward, ranks No. 4 in steals in conference-play — tallying 1.8 steals per contest. On the season, Diong is averaging 8.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 27.3 minutes per game.

The Rebels will be without their main distributor Marvin Coleman, who has a stress fracture his right leg on Jan. 12 against St. Katherine. Hamilton and true freshman Nicquel Blake lead the team in assists over that span.

UNLV has been a good defensive team throughout conference play. Though it’s a small sample, they lead the conference in steals (8.0 spg) and force the third-most turnovers (14.5) per game against Mountain West foes. It also ranks in the top-5 in field goal percentage allowed (.413) and two-point field goal percentage allowed (.440) in such games.

Nevada ranks No. 7 in the Mountain West in scoring (72.1 ppg), No. 8 in field goal percentage (.438) and No. 8 in 3-point percentage (.329). It leads the Mountain West in free throw makes (16.4) and attempts (21.8) per contest with the second-best free throw percentage (.754).

The Pack are led by former Wichita State transfer Grant Sherfield, a Mountain West Player of the Year candidate. Sherfield leads the squad in scoring (18.5 ppg), assists (5.5 apg) and steals (1.6 spg). He is shooting 42.9 percent from the floor, 36.3 percent from the 3-point line and 87.6 percent from the free throw line.

Sherfield is atop the Mountain West in total field goals (97), free throws (92) and free throw attempts (105). The 6-foot-2 guard has tallied seven 20-point performances in the last eight games with three games of 25-plus points. He is averaging 21.8 points on 43.2 percent shooting, along with 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game over that span.

In 10 conference games, Sherfield is tied for the Mountain West lead in points at 19.2 per game and second in assists at 5.7 per game.

Desmond Cambridge is Nevada’s only other double-digit scorer at 15.2 points per game, netting 39.6 percent of his shot attempts and 34.1 percent from outside. The 6-foot-4 guard has hit the second-most 3-pointers (45) and the fourth-most field goals (91).

Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray reported Friday that Nevada forward Zane Meeks is “on track to play against the Rebels.”

Meeks, listed at 6-foot-9, has missed the last three games due to knee soreness. Meeks ranks atop the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg), but is fourth in scoring (9.1 ppg) and third in 3-point makes per game (1.1). He has started in 10 of the 14 games he’s appeared in this year.

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 72
  • UNLV: 68

This is an evenly-split competition. Nevada and UNLV rank No. 143 and No. 144 in the NET rankings; per KenPom’s rankings, UNLV is ranked No. 123 while Nevada is No. 126. This has the ingredients of being a close game, which has plagued both teams. Nevada is 1-4 in games decided by five or fewer points and have lost all five of its conference games by seven or fewer points. UNLV is 1-3 in games decided by five or fewer points. The Pack are going to have to force the Rebels off the 3-point line. The only other time this season where they faced a team that had over 40 percent of its points came the 3-point shot was against San Francisco, whose current mark is 45 percent (ranked third nationally). Nevada lost by 25 with San Francisco knocking down 15 3s, the most among any Nevada opponent this season. Season record: 12-5

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)

UNLV Rebels (6-8, 3-4)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 13 Bryce Hamilton Jr. 6-4 18.3 5.5 3.7 42.2 32.4
G 5 David Jenkins Jr. Jr. 6-2 15.8 2.5 1.8 41.6 42.2
G 3 Caleb Grill Soph. 6-3 9.6 3.1 1.8 41.1 35.7
F 1 Moses Wood Soph. 6-8 5.7 3.7 1.0 41.8 40.0
F 34 Cheikh Mbacke Diong Sr. 6-11 8.8 8.6 0.4 66.7 ------ (0-1)

Additional links:

Nevada Game Notes: https://bit.ly/36pHU3u

UNLV Game Notes: https://bit.ly/3ajc3CJ

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/2YsGYaa