The Nevada Wolf Pack and San Jose Spartans men’s basketball teams, by virtue of a COVID-19 postponement earlier in the season, played two games against each other this week — one in each location.
The first, on Tuesday in Reno, Nev., the Wolf Pack came out somewhat sluggish in the first half, though it still tallied 39 first-half points. They trailed by nine at one point and finished the first half a minus-11 on the glass to one of the worst rebounding teams in the country; SJSU also buried nine first-half triples (14 in total) at a 50.0 percent clip and posted 43-points in the first half.
Nevada eventually tightened the screws in all facets — outscoring SJSU 42-29 — but with a quick turnaround on the road, thoughts circled on if Thursday’s game would shape itself in similar fashion than it did Tuesday.
In Laymen’s terms: No, no it did not.
Thursday’s game was a perfect representation of what we (all) expected to witness from Nevada entering the season, albeit occurring against a bottom-75 team across Division-I: It boasted efficient shooting, crisp ball movement (led by Grant Sherfield; more on him below), lively defense and stout rebounding — the a near-antithesis from the vibe from 48 hours prior.
Let’s give SJSU some credit, though — it gave Nevada their best haymaker through the opening 33 minutes on Tuesday before the Pack pulled away late. Their strong finish carried over, however; from the opening tip, SJSU didn’t stand much of a chance.
The Pack lit the nylon on fire, shooting a blistering 66.0 percent and 52.6 percent from 3-point range (!!!!) en-route to its 90-60 thrashing over the Spartans inside Provident Credit Union Event Center in San Jose, Calif.
Their 30-point win marked their largest margin-of-victory over a Division-I opponent this season — wrecking its previous high of 19 — while coming one-point shy of tying its season-high in points scored against such opponents that was set in the season-opener against Eastern Washington.
SJSU didn’t shoot that poorly — sporting a 42.0 field goal percentage and a 30.4 3-point percentage (7-23) — but its lackluster defense coupled with its inability to engineer enough offense at the start was at the forefront of its demise.
Sherfield picked apart the Spartans all evening, recording a 25 point-10 assist double-double in 29 minutes of action, shooting 10-of-13 and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc while adding six rebounds and a steal.
Nevada’s Desmond Cambridge totaled 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting with three triples, adding five assists, three rebounds, a pair of blocks and a steal; Will Baker had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, hauling down five boards; Tre Coleman added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
M.J. Amey led the Spartans with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting while Alvaro Cardenas posted 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting — the Spartans’ only two double figure scorers.
Thursday marked Nevada’s 11th win in its last 12 meetings versus SJSU. It has also now won three straight for the first time in two months, improving to 12-13 and 6-8 in Mountain West play; SJSU, in the midst of a 14-game losing streak and a 18-game conference skid, sinks to 7-19 (0-14 MWC).
Sherfield scored 10 of Nevada’s 16 points and put the Pack up nine with 15:06 left in the first half. Coleman’s 14th 3-pointer of the season — his second of the game — widened the Wolf Pack advantage to 36-17. Cambridge’s steal-and-score followed by his 3-pointer increased it to 43-19 with 3:03 left before halftime.
The Spartans finished with six straight points heading in the break, trailing by only 18 — 43-25. Nevada shot 65.4 percent and 53.8 percent from 3-point range; SJSU, conversely, shot 44.0 percent and 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) from distance.
The Wolf Pack didn’t look back — not even for a second.
They began the second half on a 23-6 run — capped by Cambridge’s posterizing slam — making it 66-31 with 13:11 left. The Spartans cut it to 28 a few different times, but the deficit would not drop anything below that the remainder of the game.
Next up: Nevada welcomes intrastate foe, the UNLV Rebels, to Lawlor Events Center on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.