The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team hits the road once again to take on the Utah State Aggies on Friday, Feb. 10 at 6:00 p.m.
The Pack look to snap their six-game losing streak, one short of tying their longest losing streak since the 2014-15 season, when they lost seven straight by a combined 80 points. One of their six losses came to Utah State two weeks ago to date, when the Aggies pummeled in Reno, Nev., by 29 points — a loss in which Nevada head coach Steve Alford said he’s never been more embarrased from a game his team has played.
Part of that might’ve been in-the-moment frustration, but he’s been coaching for over three decades — regardless, that says something.
The Pack, however, in recent games, have looked much better effort-wise, just without the end results. Its most recent loss came at the hands of the Colorado State Rams on Tuesday, 82-72 — which was its fourth game in a week-long span. Alford noted the team had a “low tank”, practically playing from behind the majority of the game despite cutting Colorado State’s once 18-point lead to eight with under four minutes remaining.
Utah State fell in overtime on the road to the Wyoming Cowboys, 78-76, snapping a five-game win streak where it crushed its opponents (yes, including Nevada) by a combined 107 points, albeit mostly against lesser MWC foes. Four of its five wins over that span were at home over that span — its only road game being in Reno.
Can the Wolf Pack march into Logan, Utah, — where it’s certainly seen its struggles in recent memory — and knock off the Aggies to snap its losing streak? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!
Matchup: Nevada (9-13, 3-8) vs. Utah State (15-10, 6-6)
When: Friday, Feb. 11 at 6:00 p.m. PT
Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah
TV/Online: Fox Sports 1 || foxsports.com
Spread: Utah State -11
Money line: Utah State -700, Nevada +500
Last Meeting: Utah State won 78-49 (Jan. 29, 2022)
Matchup History: Utah State leads 40-23
In Mountain West play, Utah State has been a top-4 team in the conferenec in both offense (107.3 ORTG, 4th) and defense (96.4 DRTG; 3rd), boasting the conference’s second-best effective field goal percentage (53.4) and the third-lowest turnover percentage (16.7).
Their success has been largely been dependent on their 3-point shooting. In its 15 wins, it’s shot 40.4 percent from beyond the arc; it’s shot 25.4 percent from deep in its 10 losses. That trend has remained the same throughout conference play. In six MWC losses, Utah State’s netted a ghastly 21.2 percent of its triples; that number jumps up to 36.6 percent in its six wins.
Justin Bean and Steven Ashworth, No. 2 and 3 on the team in 3-point shooting, respectively, have been its two-most efficient 3-point shooters amongst active players.
Bean, who’s in contention for Mountain West player of the year, is averaging 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds — the only player in the Mountain West to be averaging double figure scoring — along with 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals in 35.4 minutes per game. He’s set the nylon on fire, hitting 56.7 percent of his shots and half of his 3.7 3-point tries this season. Ashworth, averaging 8.9 points per game, has shot 39.3 percent from distance (on 1.9 attempts) and 40.6 percent overall.
The Aggies two other double figure scorers in Brandon Horvath (13.0 ppg) and Sean Bairstow (10.3 ppg). Horvath, shooting 51.0 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from distance, is second on the team in rebounding (6.6 rpg) and third in assists (2.8 apg).
Bairstow has played in just 16 games this season, though he has started the last 10 in the absence of Brock Miller, who’s been out since Dec. 29 due to a back injury. In 10 starts, the 6-foot-8 forward has averaged 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game on 53.3 percent shooting, including a remarkable 68.2 percent on 2-pointers.
Nevada, on the other hand, has been on the exact opposite side of the spectrum of productivity since Mountain West play began — boastin the fourth-worst offense and third-worst defense in 11 conference games.
Grant Sherfield returned on Tuesday after missing three straight games with a foot infection, but didn’t look anywhere near close to himself. The 6-foot-2 guard’s posting 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
Desmond Cambridge, meanwhile, notched a career-high 36 points with seven 3-pointers on Tuesday and is up to 16.5 points, along with 5.1 rebounds this season. Will Baker, who’s filled in for the injured Warren Washington — who’s missed the last five games with a hand injury — is the Pack’s only other double-digit scorer at 11.4 points per game.
It goes without saying, but the Wolf Pack have been significantly behind the 8-ball since conference play began. They just got off a four-game-in-seven-day stretch — three of those coming on the road — and now hit the road again to one of the hottest teams in the conference. No update has been provided on Washington, but I’m guessing there’s a greater than 50 percent chance he doesn’t play. The Pack were without him in their first meeting and got lit up in every conceivable aspect — though his absence wasn’t the reason why they played as poorly as they did. But his presence would unquestionably help stem the tide. Either way, I don’t think it’ll be enough — especially with a hobbled Sherfield battling an injury of his own. Utah State 73, Nevada 59 (Season record: (16-6)