The Nevada Wolf Pack begin their final two-game road trip of the season, beginning with the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 5:00 p.m. PT on CBS Sports Network.
Nevada lost to instrastate rival UNLV Tuesday, 62-54, winning straight for the first time in two months. Wyoming, who’s lost two of its last three after winning six straight, fell 61-55 in a hardfought battle with Colorado State on Wednesday.
In their first meeting of the season on Jan. 17, the Pokes picked up the 77-67 victory, its fourth straight win against Nevada. Wyoming leads the all-time series between the two foes, 18-9 — which dates back to the start of the 1937-38 season.
Can Nevada pull off the upset against one of the top teams in the Mountain West? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!
Matchup: Nevada (12-14, 6-9) vs. Wyoming (22-5, 11-3)
When: Saturday, Feb. 26 at 5:00 p.m. PT
Where: Arena Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo.
TV/Online: CBS Sports Network || https://www.cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network/
Spread: Wyoming -7
Money line: Wyoming -300, Nevada +250
Last Meeting: Wyoming won 77-67 (Jan. 17, 2022)
Matchup History: Wyoming leads 18-9
Wyoming’s led by Graham Ike, a contender for Mountain West player of the year, and Hunter Maldonado.
Ike’s averaging 20.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game — both team highs — shooting 53.5 percent from the floor and 70.8 percent from the free-throw line. He caused problems for the Pack in their first meeting, posting 24 points and 11 rebounds — one of his 11 double doubles on the season.
He’s registered double figure scoring in all but one of his 26 games in 2021-22, and that one was on Tuesday, where had just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. Over his previous six games, he was averaging 25.5 points on 56.9 percent shooting, along with 11.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.5 blocks.
Maldonado and Nevada guard Grant Sherfield (more on him below) are the only two players in the nation to be averaging at least 18 points and six assists; Maldonado’s totaling 19.0 points with a team-high 6.2 assists plus 5.3 rebounds per game. he’s shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent on 2s.
Per KenPom, both Maldonado and Sherfield’s assist rate rank in the top-20 nationally.
The Pokes do an excellent job at getting to the free throw line. They record over 21 percent of their scoring from the foul line and boast a 39.6 percent free-throw rate (FTA/FGA), the a top-10 mark nationally.
Nevada hasn’t been as adequate at getting to the line, and simply not as efficient offensively.
The Pack rank outside of the top-100 (107.1 ORTG - 111th) in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom; Wyoming is 27th at 113.1 points per 100 possessions, their highest mark ever (the furthest it tracks back to is 1997) and the second-best mark in the Mountain West.
Sherfield and flamethrower Desmond Cambridge, who missed Tuesday with a rib injury, lead the Wolf Pack backcourt.
Sherfield’s averaging 18.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists, shooting 43.2 percent from the floor, including 35.5 percent from the 3-point line and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe. He posted 19 points and eight dimes in 39 minutes in Cambridge’s absence.
Cambridge is (by far) the Wolf Pack’s most prominant 3-point shooters and is one of the best long-range snipers in the conference.
The 6-foot-4 guard leads the Mountain West in 3-point makes with 76, canning them at a 37.6 percent clip. Nevada went 3-for-18 from distance without him on Tuesday, the third time this season where they knocked down three or fewer 3s, the most since 2014-15 (when they had eight).
Cambridge is averaging 16.9 points and 5.3 rebounds while posting team highs in steals (1.7 spg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). Over his last five games, he’s posted 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks on 54.2/58.7/68.8 shooting splits.
It’s been a revolving door of untimely absences for the Wolf Pack this season. Tuesday was the most recent example — they returned center Warren Washington, one of the top shot blockers in the conference who missed eight straight games with a hand injury, but lost Cambridge, their best 3-point shooter and one of their top defenders. Needless to say Nevada’s best chance at an upset is with its entire squad healthy, especially since they can’t afford to have any additional offensive woes. Washington, as well as Kenan Blackshear and Tre Coleman — its top two wing defenders — must mitigate Ike’s impact, as well as Maldonado’s. It’s certainly easier said than done. Even a perfect Wolf Pack game might not be enough; Wyoming hasn’t lost at home this season, going 12-0 — albeit a few close victories. I think Nevada keeps it competitive, but I still don’t see that streak ending, so I’ll give Wyoming the benefit of the doubt at home with the altitude advantage. Wyoming 81, Nevada 75 (Season record: 18-8)