The Nevada Wolf Pack continue its condensed multi-game stretch versus the Fresno State Bulldogs on the road Friday at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
This will be the second leg of a four-game-in-seven-day schedule for the Wolf Pack, including the first of three over the next five days — where it will also have to take on formidable foes in San Diego State (on the road) and Colorado State (at home), who’s taken a slight step back of late.
Nevada’s last conference win came against the Bulldogs — 77-73 — now having dropping three straight and four of its last five. Fresno State, who got off to a 13-4 start to begin the 2021-22 campaign, has gone 2-2 over its last four. Its most recent outing featured a 30-point win over San Jose State, shooting nearly 60 percent of the field with five Bulldog players cracking double digit scoring.
Fresno State is also one of six Mountain West teams to rank in the top-51 nationally in Ken Pom’s, placing No. 47. Nevada, on the other hand, has dipped to No. 128 (for perspective: It began the season No. 49 and hasn’t been above that mark since).
Can the Wolf Pack snap out of their funk and pick up another upset victory against the Bulldogs? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!
Matchup: Nevada (9-10, 3-5) vs. Fresno State (15-6, 5-3)
When: Friday, Feb. 4 at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: SaveMart Center in Fresno, Calif.
TV/Online: Fox Sports 1 || foxsports.com
Spread: Fresno State -9
Money line: Fresno State -450, Nevada +370
Last Meeting: Nevada won 77-73 (Jan. 21, 2022)
Matchup History: Nevada leads 61-44
Presumably without center Warren Washington, who’s missed the last two games due to a hand injury, Nevada’s going to have a hard time defending Fresno State’s 7-foot stalwart Orlando Robinson, the arguable frontrunner for Mountain West player of the year and a presumed second-round draft pick in this upcoming NBA Draft (assuming he declares).
Robinson, who tested the draft waters last year before electing to return for his junior season at Fresno State, is averaging 19.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 50.7 percent shooting, including 36.2 percent from 3-point range and 79.8 percent from the free-throw line.
He’s notched six double-doubles, his most recent against Nevada, where he had 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in Fresno’s four-point loss. Robinson remains atop the Mountain West in player efficiency rating (33.6), win shares (4.9) and box plus-minus (13.5) — each of the aforementioned numbers ranking within the top-5 nationally.
While Robinson handles a majority of the load offensively, the Bulldogs have three active players — Anthony Holland, Isaiah Hill and Jordan Campbell — who average at least 7.5 points per game. Holland’s averaging 9.5 points with six rebounds — both second on the team to Robinson — with 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per contest.
Hill, who had 22 points against the Pack in their first meeting, is tallying 9.2 points, in addition to his 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game. Campbell’s averaging 7.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting and 3.1 boards in 21 contests (all starts).
While no word has been released on their availability for Friday’s game, Nevada might be without Washington, as previously noted, along with Grant Sherfield, one of the best point guards in the Mountain West, who would be missing his second straight game with a foot injury (if he’s not able to go).
The Wolf Pack — who’ve had the fourth-worst offense and the third-worst defense in MWC play, per Ken Pom — had a difficult time fashioning any shot creation in Tuesday’s loss ot UNLV, which noticeable via in its final stat line — netting just 34.5 percent of their shots while canning 17.6 percent of its 3-point attempts after hitting just 13.3 percent of them the game prior against Utah State.
Sherfield’s averaging 18.3 points with the second-highest assist total in the Mountain West at 6.2 per game.
Without many other additional lead ball-handlers, Desmond Cambridge — its second-leading scorer (15.5 ppg) — Kenan Blackshear and Daniel Foster will all have increased responsibility once again, assuming Sherfield doesn’t play.
In addition to his scoring totals, Cambridge’s posting 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game — ranking in the top-2 on the team in each category, respectively. Blackshear’s averaging 8.0 points and 4.6 boards in 19 games (12 starts), but has raised his numbers to 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest in conference play on 45.3 percent shooting (35.7 3PT).
Will Baker, who will be likely be tasked with defending Robinson for a majority of the game, is averaging 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, shooting 54.2 percent and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
Fresno State has had one of the best defenses in the Mountain West all season, holding opponents to 92.9 points per 100 possession, according to KenPom. It has held all but five opponents to below 100.0 points per 100 possessions, though Boise State was able to escape that threshold twice. One of them, in fact, was Nevada, who’s still one of two opponents (along with San Francisco) to score at least 70 points against the Bulldogs. Though it missed a season-high 15 free throws the first time around, if both Washington and Sherfield are not 100 percent, I don’t see the Pack recording 70-plus points again. Fresno State has been better defensively at home, too, holding opponents to an average of 54.6 points compared to 60.8 points in true road games. It’s simple to understand why the betting line sits at nine points, though that could change based on the availability of the Wolf Pack’s two (important) cogs. Fresno State 79, Nevada 66 (Season record: 13-6)