As I pointed about in my game preview, Utah State’s success has largely been dependent on its 3-point shooting throughout the 2021-22 season.
On Saturday, that trend remained the same — though it combined with pulverizing, connected defense that rendered the Wolf Pack stymied and, ultimately, overwhelmed.
The Aggies, who sunk 10 3-pointers at a 37.0 percent clip, crushed the Nevada Wolf Pack 78-49 — Nevada’s worst home loss since joining the Mountain West prior to the 2012-13 season.
“I’ve been doing this a long time — I’ve been to Manchester, Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, UCLA — and that’s easily the most embarrased I’ve watched my team play,” Nevada head coach Steve Alford said after the game. “We’ve been beaten before, they’ve played poorly before, but that didn’t look anything remotely close to our team. Very frustrating. We’ve worked awfully hard the last couple of days on things we want to do defensively and things we want to do offensively and it just looked like a completely different team.
“We’ve got to figure out — when things start to go the other way — pulling together and not splintering. We have a really big habit of when adversity hits, we really splinter. And usually you’re going to have some adversity at home or on the road.”
Nevada looked out of sorts offensively and defensively; lumped into its poor performance were missed layups, a few careless turnovers, leisurely transition defense and missed defensive rotations that subsequently led to wide-open dunks and 3-pointers.
Saturday marked the second time in the Alford-era where it didn’t reach 50 points — the other being in a 75-42 road loss to BYU on Dec. 10, 2019 (another Utah foe!), when it shot just 24.6 percent from the floor and 13.0 percent from distance.
The Wolf Pack barely netted (pun intented) better results in this 29-point loss — shooting just 31.0 percent, including 13.3 percent (2-15) from 3-point range.
Here’s some additional numbers for you:
- Utah State had 13 more assists (22-9), a statistic Nevada usually fares well in comparitvely to its opponent.
- Utah State and Nevada both had 15 turnovers, but the Aggies recorded 11 more points off turnovers (20-9).
- The Wolf Pack’s 31.0 field goal percentage was nearly five percentage points lower than this season’s second-worst mark; its 13.3 percent from deep was about seven percentage points lower.
- Nevada canned fewer than five 3-pointers for the first time this season and for the 7th time since the start of the 2019-20 season.
- It’s only had one other game since the start of 2016-17 with two or fewer made triples on 15 or more attempts.
Needless to say, in summary: This was Nevada’s worst game of the season. It was #bad.
“Nothing went right,” Alford said. “There was absolutely nothing that went right tonight at all. We didn’t guard; we gave up layups; we gave up wide-open 3s; we didn’t aggressively defend the drive; we missed layups — we probably missed 12-to-15 layups — there was a night where absolutely nothing went right.”
Desmond Cambridge had a team-high 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, also adding a team-high seven rebounds while tying the team-bests in steals (3) and blocks (2). Will Baker had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting with five rebounds.
Nevada’s star point guard Grant Sherfield, who Alford said postgame is battling a “very sore foot”, had arguably his worst performance in his two years with Nevada, tallying just four points on 1-of-12 shooting — though he dished out five of Nevada’s nine assists.
Nine different Aggies scored — six in double figures — shooting 50.0 percent overall.
Justin Bean and RJ Eytle-Rock tallied 12 points apiece. Bean shot 5-of-11 from the floor with a pair of 3s, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks — the latter pair being team-mosts. Eytle-rock shot 5-for-8 with two triples (on five attempts), adding two assists.
Brandon Horvath had 10 points with a team-high seven rebounds, two steals and one block; Sean Bairstow totaled 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and a perfect 2-of-2 from distance.
Max Shulga had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, recording five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Steven Ashworth recorded 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting, dishing a team-high seven assists. The 6-foot-1 guard also hauled-in a season-high six rebounds.
Nevada drops to an even 9-9 and 3-4 in MWC play; the Aggies picked up their third conference victory of the season, moving to 3-5 with a 12-9 overall record. But with its three-point win over New Mexico, 18-point win over San Diego State and...well, this 29-point destruction over Nevada — Utah State boasts a plus-31 point differential in MWC play.
K.J. Hymes’ second-chance layup tied it at 13 with 12:49 left in the first half. Utah State’s Zee Hamoda’s triple made it 26-17 with 8:09 remaining in the first half — capping a 9-0 Aggies run.
From there, the Aggies never glanced back.
Bairstow’s second triple of the game — matching his season total entering Saturday — made it 31-19 with 5:47 remaining in the opening half. Shulga’s triple followed by Ashworth’s layup increased it 39-23.
Utah State closed the final five minutes on a 14-5 run, entering halftime with the 45-27 advantage. It shot 56.3 percent from the floor, 7-of-18 from beyond the arc and 11-of-14 on 2s. Conversely, Nevada shot just 37.0 percent and 10.0 percent from the 3-point line with nine turnovers.
Two consecutive Bean dunks followed by Horvath’s fastbreak finish gave Utah State the 54-29 lead. Back-to-back Eytle Rock jumpers made it 69-40 with under eight minutes remaining. Both teams scored nine points apiece the remainder of the game.
“The guys are going to have respond in film very quickly,” Alford said. “UNLV’s playing at a really high level. I watched them against Colorado State and thought they were outstanding.
“We’ve got to work harder and be smarter ... I don’t know how anything else could’ve went more wrong than tonight. And I hope that’s the case — I hope there’s not more things that can go wrong.”
Next up: The Wolf Pack begin a three-game road trip with travelling to Las Vegas to take on intrastate rival UNLV on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1. Four of their next five games are on the road.