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Wolf Pack opponent preview: Nevada takes on Boise State in quarterfinals of MWC Tournament

Nevada Athletics Department

The No. 5-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack take on No. 4 Boise State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Thursday at 2:30 p.m. PST on CBS Sports Network. It will be the first tournament game for both teams, who earned a first-round bye.

The Pack enter the game at 15-9 and 10-7 in conference play, while Boise State is 18-7 and 14-6 in Mountain West action.

Nevada swept the Broncos in its two meetings on Feb. 5-7. It won its two contests by 2-and-11 points. The former featured a game-winning fadeaway from guard Grant Sherfield in the waning seconds.

Thursday marks the the third time the two programs have squared off in the Mountain West Tournament, which have all been in the quarterfinal round. Boise State won 75-62 in the 2013-14 season; Nevada bested the Broncos 77-69 in 2018-19.

Another game-winner from Sherfield — his third of the year — rewarded the Wolf Pack with a 85-82 upset over Colorado State in its regular season finale. Boise State finished on a three-game losing skid that was capped-off by a 67-64 loss to Fresno State on March 2.

Thursday counts as a Quad 1 game for Nevada and a Quad 2 contest for Boise State; Nevada is 0-4 in Quad 1 games this year, while Boise State is 2-2 in Quad 2 affairs.

Quarterfinal #2: Nevada (15-9, 10-7) vs. Boise State (18-7, 14-6)

When: Thursday, March 11 at 2:30 p.m. PST

Where: Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Online: CBS Sports Network

Matchup history: Nevada leads 50-28

Last meeting: Nevada won 73-62 (Feb. 7, 2021)

Breakdown:

Two Wolf Pack players earned All-Mountain West honorees this week: Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge.

Sherfield, who earned the conference’s Newcomer of the Year award along with an All-Mountain West first team spot, averaged 18.0 points with a conference-best 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game — all team highs. He shot 42.9 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from 3-point range. His 112 made free throws and 86.8 free-throw percentage placed atop of the Mountain West.

In league play, Sherfield averaged conference-bests in scoring (18.2 ppg) and assists (6.6 apg), also finishing T-4 in steals at 1.5 per game. He shot 42.6 percent from the floor, 32.6 percent from 3-point range and 88.8 percent from the free-throw line. The 6-foot-2 guard had 11 games of double figure scoring — nine coming against Mountain West opponents.

Sherfield dominated Boise State in its two meetings, posting averages of 24.5 points, 11.0 assists and 2.5 steals on 52.9 percent shooting with a 50.0 3-point percentage. His most recent double-double — his second of the year — came in its Feb. 5 meeting with the Broncos, where he had 20 points (9-16 FG, 2-4 3PT) and 14 assists.

Cambridge, a All-Mountain West third-team honoree, averaged 15.7 points, 4.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game. His 15.7 points was the seventh-best mark in the conference.

Cambridge has logged 20-plus points in three of his last five games and seven all season. In the last five games, the 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 18.8 points on 42.9 percent shooting from the floor and 35.9 percent from deep. He has 16 games with multiple made 3-pointers — trailing UNLV’s David Jenkins Jr. and San Diego State’s Jordan Schakel for the Mountain West lead.

Nevada could be without forward Zane Meeks, who has missed the last three games due to knee tendinitis. In 18 games (10 starts), he averaged 9.0 points with a team-high 5.9 rebounds, shooting 47.0 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. According to Nevada head coach Steve Alford, Meeks is a “game-time decision” for Thursday’s game.

Against Boise State, Cambridge averaged 19.0 points, knocking down 53.3 percent of his shots and 38.5 percent from outside.

Boise State’s Derrick Alston was in contention for the Mountain West Player of the Year, but came up shy to San Diego State’s Matt Mitchell. Alston was the nominee for the preseason Mountain West Player of the Year award.

He guided Boise State to its eighth season of 18-plus wins in the last nine years. The 6-foot-9 wing averaged 17.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists, shooting 44.5 percent from the floor, 38.5 percent from 3-point range and 86.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Alston shined brightest against Mountain West foes, averaging 18.1 points — the second-best mark in the conference — with 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest. In such games, he netted 46.1 percent of his shots, 38.1 percent from deep and 85.7 percent from the charity stripe.

Alston tallied a conference-best 11 20-point performances in Mountain West play. He was also the only Mountain West player to rank among the top-four in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage in league games. Like Cambridge, he has also totaled 16 games with multiple made 3-pointers.

Marcus Shaver is averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds with a team-best 1.3 steals in 27.6 minutes per game.

Abu Kigab, the team’s only other double figure scorer at 11.8 points per game, was labeled “day-to-day” by head coach Leon Rice earlier in the week after suffering a shoulder injury in its regular season finale. Kigab earned second-team All-Mountain West honors from the coaches this week.

Prediction:

  • Boise State: 75
  • Nevada: 73

This jostled back-and-forth between this one. Among each of the top-four seeds in the Mountain West tournament, Boise State is the Nevada’s most favorable opponent to open with, although that doesn’t make it easy. Beating an opponent three times in one season — especially one with a better seed — is a difficult task. Nevada is coming off one of its best victories of the season against a top-3 team in the Mountain West. Though, three of its four Quad 2 victories (Boise State twice, Colorado State) have been at home, where it’s 10-2 this season; away from home, it’s 5-7. If the Wolf Pack are without Meeks, that is a floor-spacing threat plus arguably their best rebounder that isn’t on the floor, which complicates matters. It should be an exciting game, but I expect Boise State to squeak the victory out. Season record: 17-7

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)

Boise State (18-7, 14-6)

Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
Position Number Name Class Height PPG RPG APG FG% 3P%
G 0 Marcus Shaver Sr. 6-2 10.7 4.6 1.5 44.4 38.6
G 10 Rayj Dennis Soph. 6-2 8.9 3.2 3.0 44.0 28.2
G 14 Emmanuel Akot Jr. 6-9 8.4 3.6 2.3 37.9 28.6
G/F 21 Derrick Alston Sr. 6-9 17.5 3.6 2.2 44.5 38.9
F 33 Mladen Armus Jr. 6-10 7.6 8.0 1.2 50.4 0.0 (0-1)