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Nevada Basketball opponent preview and prediction: Pepperdine Waves

NCAA Basketball-WCC Tournament-BYU vs Pepperdine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack seek their first three-game win streak of the season against the Pepperdine Waves on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev. It will be televised on Nevada Sports Net and streamed on Mountain West Network.

The Pack return home after a lengthy, two-and-a-half week road trip, including a three-game stint at the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D. After suffering four straight losses — including a 27-point loss abruptly followed by AJ Bramah’s dismissal — they fashioned two consecutive 19-point victories over George Mason and Washington, earning the Crossover Classic title.

Pepperdine is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, though the last three coming by a combined 19 points. The Waves dropped their most recent game to Grand Canyon, 59-56 — suffering their first four-game losing streak since 2019-20.

Nevada is 0-3 against West Coast Conference opponents — losing by a combined 32 points to San Diego, Santa Clara and San Francisco.

The Waves, along with Loyola Marymount are Nevada’s lone WCC foes for the remainder of its non-conference schedule. Pepperdine has won five of the last six meetings between the two programs and is 23-13 overall.

Can Nevada earn its first three-game win streak? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!

Matchup: Nevada (3-4) vs. Pepperdine (2-6)

When: Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7:00 p.m. PT

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV/Online: Nevada Sports Net || Mountain West Network

Spread: Nevada -14

Money line: Nevada -1200, Pepperdine +750

Last Meeting: Pepperdine won 76-75 (Nov. 16, 2010)

Matchup History: Pepperdine leads 23-13

Breakdown:

The Waves have struggled offensively throughout their opening stretch, shooting below 42 percent in all but three of their games while also struggling taking care of the rock. Per Barttorvik, they rank No. 270 in adjusted offensive rating (out of 358 teams), No. 236 in effective field goal percentage and No. 307 in turnover rate.

True freshman and former 2021 McDonalds All-American nominee Houston Mallette has began his collegiate career as the team’s leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. He’s shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from the 3-point line, tying the team-high in rebounds (4.6) along with 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 32.6 minutes per game.

Jan Zidek, the team’s third-leading scorer (9.4 ppg) a year ago, is the Waves’ only other double figure scorer at 12.0 points in 31.3 minutes per game. He’s shooting 38.1 percent with a 34.2 3-point percentage.

Journeyman Keith Fisher, who’s spent time at Mountain West’s own San Jose State along with three seasons at Illinois State, along with freshman Mike Mitchell and fifth-year senior Jade’ Smith have also made considerable contributions in Pepperdine’s first eight games.

Fisher topped the team in scoring with 13 points — tying a season high, which he’s previously done twice — on 4-of-8 shooting with one 3-pointer, where he’s struggled considerably.

Other than their 27-point shellacking against South Dakota State, The Wolf Pack offense has been consistently afloat. They rank No. 63 in adjusted offensive rating, No. 71 in turnover rate and No. 116 in effective field goal percentage.

Nevada’s backcourt of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge have begun to re-kindle their cohesion that made the duo arguably the Mountain West’s most lethal backcourt in 2020-21.

Sherfield is coming off back-to-back 31- and 23-point performances — the former being a career most — where he shot a combined 57.6 percent after netting just 37.1 percent of his shots over his first five games.

The 6-foot-2 guard has is averaging team-highs in both points (17.7 ppg) and assists (6.0) on 43.7/37.5/84.6 shooting splits — equating to an above average 53.7 true shooting percentage.

Cambridge is coming off two consecutive 21-point outings, posting 17.0 points on 45.8 percent shooting, including 33.3 percent from distance. Warren Washington has taken a leap, despite battling foul trouble, as the 7-foot center’s averaging 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game.

Luckily enough for the Pack, it has not just one, but two 7-footers to stem the tide! Former Texas transfer Will Baker is averaging 12.0 points and 3.6 rebounds, shooting 55.4 percent and 57.9 percent from 3-point range on 2.7 attempts a game.

Prediction:

The Wolf Pack picked up two potentially season-altering victories — one over a Pac-12 program — after perhaps their worst stretch of games (or events) they’ll have this year (knock on wood). For the most part, they have looked bleak against three other WCC foes, but that could be nothing more than a blip in the sand instead of a ongoing occurrence. Nevertheless, Nevada’s performed much better defensively over their last two outings, albeit a small sample — though I believe it amounts to something. Pepperdine, on the other hand, has yet to find a true offensive groove despite suffering some close losses over the last week. The somewhat arbitrary, yet key number is 80 — Nevada is 3-0 when it scores 80 points and 0-2 when it allows 80 or more points; Pepperdine is 0-3 when it allows 80 points (it has not scored 80 yet this season). And I believe the trend continues on Tuesday. Nevada 81, Pepperdine 68 (Season record: 4-3)