No Steve Alford, no problem! Nevada climbed over the West Coast Conference hill!
In the absence Alford, Nevada’s third-year head coach who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the Nevada Wolf Pack raced past the Pepperdine Waves, 79-66, on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev. The win rewards Nevada with its first victory over a WCC opponent in four tries this season.
Nevada assistant coach Kory Barnett, 32, was the team’s acting coach on Tuesday and will be for the following two games — when Alford’s eligible to return.
The Wolf Pack led by just three points at halftime, but their second-half onslaught — including a 28-6 run with six 3-pointers from the 16:45 mark to 10:39 — was the ultimate difference in their 13-point win, despite going basket-less for nearly eight minutes thereafter, where the Waves outscored them 16-3.
Nevada shot 46.2 percent, including 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Its dynamic duo of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge both recorded 20-plus points for the third straight game — all resulting in victories.
Sherfield recorded his first double-double of the year, tallying a team-high 24 points with 10 assists on 10-of-18 shooting. The 6-foot-2 guard was just two rebounds shy of his first career triple-double — tying Warren Washington for a team high with eight boards — and one steal.
Cambridge posted 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, accounting for five of Nevada’s nine total 3-pointers, adding six rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. Washington recorded 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks.
K.J. Hymes, who missed Nevada’s first seven games due to an ankle injury, suited up tonight. In just 14 minutes, he had three points and two rebounds.
Pepperdine shot 33.8 percent, including 23.3 percent from deep — marking the fourth time on the year where it’s shot sub-36.0 percent from the floor and sub-25 percent from 3-point range.
True freshmen Houston Mallette and Mike Mitchell Jr. were the Waves’ only two double digit scorers. Mitchell finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting and 2-of-6 from beyond the arc, in addition to his five rebounds, four assists and one steal. Mitchell had all 10 of his points in the opening half, added five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Keith Fisher and Jade’ Smith each with seven points and eight rebounds, tying the team lead. Smith shot a lowly 25 percent on 12 attempts, though had three steals and three assists; Fisher shot 2-of-4 with a triple.
Nevada’s third straight victory puts it at .500 through eight games. Pepperdine drops its fifth straight for the first time since 2018-19, falling to 2-7.
Hymes got the Pack on the board with a left-handed jump hook. After tallying their first six in the paint, two straight Cambridge jumpers put Nevada ahead 11-5 with 14:20 left in the opening half.
Pepperdine fashioned a 9-0 run of its own over the next 1:40 — taking the 14-11 lead. Mallete’s jumper rewarded the Waves with a 22-17 lead with 7:17 left in the first half.
Six straight from Sherfield — after missing his first three — tied it at 26. The Pack closed the final 3:21 on a 9-4 run to enter halftime with the 35-32 lead.
Despite the sloppy stat, the Wolf Pack shot 51.6 percent from the floor, though it shot 25.0 percent (3-12) from beyond the arc with seven turnovers. Nevada’s defense did a good job at generating one-and-done possessions, holding Pepperdine to 34.3 percent shooting and 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc.
Nevada’s big three — Cambridge (12), Sherfield (8) and Washington (8) — accounted for all but seven of the Wolf Pack’s 35 first half points. Mallette had a team-high 10 points while Mitchell had nine with the Waves.
Sherfield’s triple put the Pack ahead 44-36 with 15:22 remaining — prompting a Pepperdine timeout. Cambridge’s 3-pointer widened the advantage to 17, 59-42 — his fourth 3-pointer of the evening.
Back-to-back triples from Sherfield and Cambridge extended it to 67-42 with 10:39 to go, Nevada’s largest lead of the night. The Pack went went without a field goal until 2:43 left — a near eight-minute stretch — courtesy of Washington’s three-point play, making it 73-58 with under three minutes remaining.
Pepperdine cut the lead to as small as nine, but it was too little, too late, giving Nevada its third straight victory.
Next up: Nevada hits the road again for a two-game road trip, beginning with North Texas on Saturday, Dec. 4. at 11 a.m. PT.