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Nevada Basketball opponent preview and prediction: George Mason Patriots

NCAA Basketball: George Mason at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack look to snap their four-game losing streak against the George Mason Patriots in the second of three games (in three days) at the Crossover Classic on Tuesday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Nevada got trucked by South Dakota State, 102-75, in the Classic’s opener — its worst loss on the season, surrendered its first 100-point game in regulation since it lost 105-84 against UCLA in Jan. of 2013.

The Wolf Pack’s in the midst of their first four-game losing streak since they started 1-7 in 2010-11. They are 1-4 in total and are in need of a quick turnaround.

The task doesn’t get easier with George Mason, who begins 4-2 in its first six games — including a 71-66 road victory over then-No. 20 Maryland on Nov. 17. The Patriots barely fell at the hands of the Washington Huskies in first Crossover Classic game on Monday, 77-74.

Tuesday marks Nevada and George Mason’s first ever meeting against one another.

Will Nevada be able to get back into the win column? Let’s dig into the matchup and find out!

Matchup: Nevada (1-4) vs. George Mason (4-2)

When: Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 4:00 p.m. PT

Where: Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

TV/Online: None || ESPN+

Spread: Nevada -3.5

Money line: Nevada -160, George Mason +140

Last Meeting: None

Matchup History: First ever meeting

Breakdown:

Washington, who’s been an average offensive team thus far, has been the only team to score at least 70 points on George Mason this season, albeit a small sample.

The feat is impressive nonetheless, holding opponents to 63.5 points, sub-40.0 percent shooting from the floor and 31.8 percent from 3-point range. The Patriots are also out-rebounding opponents by 8.5 rebounds per game and are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the Atlantic-10.

They have also been one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation, ranking in the top-30 across Division-I in 3-point percentage (40.9; T-29) and 3-point makes per game (11.2; T-20).

With three of its top scorers from 2021-22 transferring to different Division-I programs, junior Josh Oduro has taken a sizeable leap. The 6-foot-9 forward, who averaged just 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 23.5 minutes last year, has averaged 16.7 points, 6.0 boards and 1.5 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game across the team’s first six games.

Oduro finished with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting with nine rebounds and a block against Washington — his third 20-point game of the season and the fourth of his career.

D’Shawn Schwartz — Colorado’s third-best scorer last season behind McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey — has also flourished in his first season with the Patriots. He’s posted averages of 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, shooting 46.0 percent from the floor and a blistering 45.9 percent from 3-point range on high volume (6.2 attempts).

Former Tennessee transfer Davonte Gaines has been George Mason’s most active player on the glass, grabbing a team-high 9.0 rebounds — 3.0 offensive — per game, along with 12.8 points on 53.5/64.7/90.9 shooting.

DeVon Cooper, a former Morehead State transfer, is averaging 13.8 points — third-most amongst Patriot players — on 46.0 percent shooting, including 41.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He tied Oduro with a team-high 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting from deep against the Huskies.

Xavier Johnson is averaging just 6.5 points on 40.5 percent from the floor, but he’s recorded team-highs in assists (4.0) and steals (2.0) through six games.

On the other side, Nevada’s had stretches where it’s been in complete disarray defensively — surrendering at least 95 points twice while allowing three 50-point halves over its last five halves played. With that, the Pack have surrendered 79.0 points with teams knocking down 45.9 percent from the floor and 35.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Desmond Cambridge leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game, shooting 43.8 percent from the floor and 35 percent from the 3-point line. Warren Washington, coming off his second career 20-point outing with Nevada, has been one of its most impressive players to start the season.

The 7-foot center’s is third on the team in scoring with 13.8 points, topping the team in both rebounds (6.6 rpg) and blocks (1.6 bpg). His 7-foot cohort, Will Baker, has tallied 13.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals across five games. Baker’s shooting 58.1 percent from the floor and a team-high 61.5 percent from the 3-point line, albeit a moderately low volume (2.6 attempts).

Though he’s tallied 14.0 points, Pack guard Grant Sherfield has struggled with efficiency inside the arc. Sherfield’s shooting 37.1 percent — including 36.5 percent on 2s — but is sinking 38.9 percent of his triples. He leads the team in assists (6.2 apg), but the Pack will need to get him going in order to reach their max potential.

Nevada forward AJ Bramah, a Robert Morris transfer who was averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games, was dismissed from the team due to “conduct detrimental to the team,” Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray reported Tuesday.

Prediction:

Nevada head coach Steve Alford labeled its 73-70 loss to San Francisco last week as a “step in the right direction,” though the Wolf Pack took a sizable two steps back in Monday’s outing. It goes without saying that an opponent knocking 15 of their first 18 shots won’t do any justice, but the Pack defense has to figure it out one way or another. George Mason is going to slow the tempo down and methodically beat teams in the half-court — especially from distance — an area where Nevada’s struggled, in stretches, this season. Both teams are going to be playing with a sense of urgency to get the bad taste out of their mouths after yesterday. Even with the loss of Bramah against a good Patriot defense, I presume the Pack offense shows up. But George Mason has integrated a few quality transfers (Schwartz, Cooper, Gaines) well, while a couple of role players (Oduro, Johnson) have stepped up, so I’m going to give them the slight benefit of the doubt over a reeling, yet confounding Pack squad. George Mason 74, Nevada 71 (Season record: 3-2)