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Nevada tops Air Force 75-68, earns first true road win of season

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team continued their successful history over Air Force on Saturday, topping the Falcons 75-68 in Colorado Springs, Colo., to earn their second conference victory of the season.

Despite the shocking 68-66 Falcon upset in Reno in 2020-21, the Pack have still won 11 of their last 12 meetings against Air Force and are now 15-3 in the matchup’s history. Nevada was also 0-3 in true-road games before Saturday’s seven-point victory over Air Force, who’s five-game unbeaten home win streak was snapped Saturday.

Nevada shot 45.5 percent from the floor and just 28.6 percent from 3-point range. It has shot below 30.0 percent from distance in three of its last four games after doing so just once in its first 10 games.

Grant Sherfield’s tallied a team-high 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. He is now one point shy of 1,000 career points.

Will Baker notched his second double-double of the season, recording 11 points and 10 rebounds — shooting 4-of-6 from the floor.

Warren Washington was one rebound shy of recording such feat as well — which would’ve been the second time in three games that the 7-foot duo both finished with double-doubles in the same game. He finished with 12 points on a near-perfect 5-of-6 shooting.

Nevada guard Daniel Foster also had seven boards, in addition to his eight points (on eight free throws) and five assists.

The Pack intermixed a 2-2-1 — followed by a subsequent 2-3 zone — and a man-to-man defense throughout the afternoon.

Air Force shot 38.2 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. Over 70 percent of its field goal attempts came from distance, knocking down 15 — ultimately smashing its previous single game season highs of 27 3-point attempts and 10 made 3s (in two seperate games).

AJ Walker tallied 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Ethan Taylor recorded the program’s first ever triple double, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Nikc Jackson had 11 points with three rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting.

By virtue of Air Force’s 3-point volume, Nevada outscored them in the paint 30-12. It also finished a plus-16 (41-25) on the glass — its third-best rebounding margin this season.

Saturday’s win bumps Nevada to 8-6 and 2-1 in Mountain West play. Air Force drops to 8-6 and 1-2 in MWC play.

Air Force took 16 of its first 18 shots from distance, hitting six of them — including a pair from Walker. Sherfield’s stepback triple gave Nevada the 15-12 lead with 13:23 left in the first half.

Both teams combined for 22 3-point attempts in the game’s first 10 minutes.

Sherfield’s floater gave the Pack the 21-15 advantage. His 3-pointer widened it to 34-25 with 1:52 remaining in the half.

The Falcons netted just one field goal (on five attempts) in the final 6:43, in part due to shot selection and the effectiveness Nevada’s 2-3 zone defense that it began to utilize near the end of the first half.

The Wolf Pack entered halftime with a 34-27 advantage. They shot 39.3 percent and just 26.7 percent (4-15) from 3-point range; Air Force sported a 33.3 field goal and 3-point percentage at the break. All but six of its 24 shot attempts were 3s.

Washington’s putback slam gave Nevada the 43-33 lead — its first double-digit lead of the afternoon. Carter Murphy’s transition layup trimmed the deficit to five, but A 10-3 Wolf Pack upped it to 53-41.

Desmond Cambridge’s first basket came with 8:23 to go, putting the Pack up 13. Jackson’s three-point cut it to 64-57 with 5:16 remaining. Jake Heidbreder cut it to five, but Sherfield’s fourth triple of the afternoon re-upped it to eight with over three minutes to go.

Walker’s 3-pointer re-cut the lead to 73-68 with 32 seconds left, but the lead did not fall below the six the remainder of the game. Kenan Blackshear sunk a pair of free throws, icing the game and rewarding the Wolf Pack their 8th victory of the season.

Next up: Nevada caps its three-games-in-six-days chalenge as it will face the Wyoming Cowboys on Monday, Jan. 17 at 5:00 p.m. PST.