The Nevada Wolf Pack look to build upon its three-game win streak against intrastate rival UNLV, who’s in the midst of a hot stretch as well, on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 8:00 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
Nevada’s three straight winsd comes after it lost a season-high six games in a row, the most since it lost seven in a row during the 2014-15 season. The Pack are coming off a 90-60 thrashing of the San Jose State Spartans, who they played twice last week after one of their matchups was postponed earlier in the season due to COVID-19.
UNLV has won five of its last seven and is coming off a 21-point victory against the Colorado State Rams, completing the season sweep and becoming the only team that’s beaten the Rams twice.
The Runnin’ Rebels topped the shorthanded Pack 69-58 in Las Vegas in their first meeting of the season. They have not beaten Nevada twice in the same season since 2014-15 and have not swept the season set over Nevada since 2012-13 (they played thrice in 2014-15).
Can Nevada split the series against its foe down south? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out.
Matchup: Nevada (12-13, 6-8) vs. UNLV (16-11, 8-6)
When: Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.
TV/Online: CBS Sports Network || https://www.cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network/
Spread: Nevada -2.5
Money line: Nevada -145, UNLV +125
Last Meeting: UNLV won 69-58 (Feb. 1, 2022)
Matchup History: UNLV leads 61-33
The Rebels are led by two double-digit scorers, including the conference’s leading scorer in Bryce Hamilton (21.5 ppg). The 6-foot-4 guard, who is coming off his first double-double of the season against Colorado State, where he had 20 points and 10 rebounds, has averaged 24.1 points in Mountain West play — also a Mountain West most in such games.
For the season, he’s shooting 44.0 percent from the floor, including 36.7 percent from beyond the arc and 74.3 percent from the free-throw line — good enough for a 54.7 true shooting percentage. Though his TS% has been marginally better in Mountain West play (56.0 percent), despite the slight uptick in volume (17.3 FGA in total; 18.5 in 14 MW games).
Hamilton also ranks second on the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg), second in assists (2.2 apg) and third in steals (0.9 spg). He’s knocked down a team-most 69 triples, the 3rd-most in the conference — trailing only Nevada’s Desmond Cambridge (76; more on him later) and Wyoming sharpshooter Drake Jefferies (72).
UNLV’s other double digit scorer is former Texas transfer Donovan Williams, a former teammate of Nevada’s Will Baker.
Williams is averaging 13.4 points on 48.6 percent shooting, including a team-best 43.9 percent from deep on a modest 3.0 triple tries per game. He is also averaging 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 asssits, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks per contest.
Williams has battled a knee injury that has sidelined him throughout spurts this season, though he has been available for the team’s last two games, where he’s combined for 13 points on 12 shots in 27 minutes.
The Wolf Pack’s three-game winning streak has been largely on the backs of dominant backcourt duo of Cambridge and Grant Sherfield, as well as Baker.
Sherfield was most recently named the conference’s player of the week after averaging 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists on 60 percent shooting — and 3-of-4 from long range — against the Spartans last week.
On the season, Sherfield’s tallying 18.7 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game and is one of two players nationally to be averaging at least 18 points and 6.5 assists. He’s shooting 43.7 percent from the floor on the season, including 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Cambridge has been outstanding of late, totaling 23.5 points on 61.1/62.5/80.0 shooting splits in addition to 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game across his last four games, albeit a small sample size.
On the season, he’s averaging 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks — the latter two as team highs — on 44.3 percent shooting, including 37.6 percent from deep and 72.0 percent from the charity stripe (56.5 TS%).
Baker’s held down the fort in the interior without 7-foot starting cohort Warren Washington, who’s missed the last eight games with a hand injury. He’s averaging 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season. But in the eight games of Washington’s absence, he’s notched 13.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game — including a 23-point performance (on 11-of-13 shooting) last Tuesday against the Spartans.
Let’s put Nevada’s three-game win streak into perspective for a brief moment — San Jose State is objectively the worst team in the Mountain West, and two of Nevada’s last three victories have come against the Spartans. The other came in a 13-point win over Utah State on the road — Nevada’s biggest win of the season and its only Quad 1 victory to date. The Wolf Pack are a combined 2-12 in Quad 1 or 2 games this season, but have gone 9-1 in Quad 3 or 4 games. And while Tuesday’s contest against UNLV is considered a Quad 3 game for the Pack because it’s at home as opposed to on the road or in a neutral site, given the circumstances, this would arguably be Nevada’s second-biggest home win of the season — the other being against Fresno State (77-73) on Jan. 21. Tuesday will be a Quad 2 game for UNLV, however. The Rebels dropped their first seven games against Quad 1 or 2 foes, but have gone 3-3 since with back-to-back victories against Fresno State and Colorado State over their last two. They seem to be getting peaking at the right time, but I don’t envision the Pack losing on its homecourt against its rival down south. Nevada 79, UNLV 77 (Season record: 18-7)