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Wolf Pack opponent preview: Nevada returns from 19-day hiatus to face Utah State

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

In its final two-game series of the 2020-21 regular season, the Nevada Wolf Pack will take on the Utah State Aggies in Provo, Utah. The series begins Friday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1.

Nevada is on a current four-game win streak, but has not played since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19 protocols within the program. It has won two straight series versus UNLV and Boise State.

Utah State returned after a 13-day hiatus last weekend, but got swept by Boise State. After resulting as victors in 12 of its first 15 games — including a 9-0 start in Mountain West play — it has dropped in four of its last six affairs.

Friday marks the Aggies’ first home game since Jan. 21. It is 7-2 at home this year compared to 7-5 away from home.

Dating back to the 2015-16 season, the Pack have won seven of their last 10 against Utah State.

Nevada (14-7, 9-5) vs. Utah State (14-7, 11-4)

When: Friday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. PST

Where: Logan, Utah

TV: Fox Sports 1

Online: Fox Sports Go

Matchup history: Utah State leads 37-23

Last meeting: Utah State won 80-70 (Jan. 11, 2020)

Breakdown:

Utah State is led by Neemias Queta, the conference’s most dominant center. The 7-footer is averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and a conference-best 3.0 blocks per game. Queta also leads the team in steals (1.2 spg) and is second in assists (2.8 apg).

For those who appreciate a more advanced analytical background, Queta tops the Mountain West in player efficiency rating (30.7), block percentage (13.0 percent), defensive rating (80.8), defensive win shares (2.0), win shares per 40 minutes (.263), defensive blocks plus-minus (6.7) and box plus-minus (12.0).

The 7-foot stalwart was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award Thursday.

Despite the pair of losses to Boise State, Queta recorded two straight 30-point, 10-rebound double-doubles. He joins Loyala’s Tavaras Hardy as the only players nationally to record back-to-back 30-point, 10-rebound performances and the first Aggie to do so since Marvin Roberts in the 1968-69 season.

Utah State’s remaining two double-digit scorers are Marco Anthony and Justin Bean. Anthony is tallying 11.1 points per contest, while Bean is averaging 10.1.

Anthony and Bean are both averaging 1.1 steals per game, while Bean edges out Anthony in the rebounding department (7.1 to 5.1 rpg).

Both teams are slotted as the 4th- and 5th-best scoring teams in the Mountain West. Utah State is scoring 74.7 points per game compared to Nevada’s 73 points.

Utah State is No. 4 in field goal percentage (.456), but No. 7 in 3-point percentage (.342) and No. 5 in free throw percentage (.716).

The Pack are No. 6 in the conference in field goal percentage (.449) and No. 8 in 3-point percentage (.340), but second in free throw percentage (.756) and in free throws taken per game (20.7).

The Pack are led by Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Grant Sherfield, who tops the team in scoring (18.9 ppg), assists (6.2 apg) and steals (1.8 spg).

The former Wichita State transfer has shredded defense this season, most notably over this four-game win streak. He is averaging 20.5 points to go with 9.3 assists per game, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from deep over this four-game stretch.

In Nevada’s most recent two-game set against Boise State, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 24.5 points on 52.9 percent shooting, along with 11.0 assists and 2.5 steals per contest.

Desmond Cambridge has been the second-best player for the Wolf Pack. He is tallying 15.3 points on 41.4 percent shooting, including 34.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Over the past 10 games, Cambridge has seen bumps in his efficiency; he is knocking down 44.8 percent of his shots and 38.7 percent of his 3-pointers in that span.

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 70
  • Utah State: 79

The Wolf Pack haven’t played a game in 19 days, so there will likely be dust to brush off. The longest it has gone in between games this year was 11 days (Dec. 20 to Dec. 31). It beat New Mexico by 14 points in a neutral site coming out of the break, though the Lobos are a much inferior opponent compared to the Aggies; New Mexico has dropped two of its last 10 contests and are currently last in the Mountain West. Nevada was playing its best basketball prior to the hiatus and has played up to the best Mountain West competition in a limited sample, so maybe they figured something out. The Pack are 5-5 away from Lawlor Events Center this season, a moderate mark compared to their 9-2 mark at home. The frontcourt will have to limit its foul trouble and rebound at a high level in order to win this game. Utah State is hauling down a conference-best 12.9 offensive boards in league play — a mark that shouldn’t be ignored. Season record: 14-7

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)

Utah State Aggies (15-7, 12-4)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 22 Brock Miller Jr. 6-5 9.5 1.9 1.0 57.3 40.8
G 44 Marco Anthony Jr. 6-5 10.7 4.8 2.9 41.3 37.0
F 10 Alphonso Anderson Sr. 6-6 6.4 2.6 0.7 43.1 38.6
F 34 Justin Bean Jr. 6-7 10.5 7.2 2.0 50.8 23.5
C 23 Neemias Queta Jr. 7-0 14.3 9.6 2.7 57.3 ------ (0-2)