Nevada grades: Despite UNLV win, encouraging signs for Pack

Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear shown Feb. 1, 2022 against UNLV in Las Vegas.

Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear shown Feb. 1, 2022 against UNLV in Las Vegas.

Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 69-58 loss to the UNLV Rebels on Tuesday in Las Vegas:
STARTERS
DESMOND CAMBRIDGE: B-

With Grant Sherfield (foot) and Warren Washington (fingers) out with injuries, the Wolf Pack needed Cambridge to put the team on his back. Unfortunately for the Wolf Pack, though, Cambridge forgot to bring his jump shot to Las Vegas.
The 6-foot-4 guard was 4-for-20 from the field and just 1-of-9 on threes. But give Cambridge credit for having the courage and confidence to take 20 shots on such a horrible shooting night, even if it was painful to watch. But forget about Cambridge’s faulty aim on Tuesday. Nights like that are going to happen now and then. But he did almost everything else as well as he’s ever done it in a Pack uniform. He finished with 14 points because he got to the free throw line (5-for-5) as much as he had in the last six games combined. He also didn’t let his nightmare evening on offense affect his defense and finished with four steals, three blocks and seven rebounds. The 14 rebounds, steals and blocks combined are the most he’s ever had in a game in his Pack career.
KENAN BLACKSHEAR: B
Blackshear played the most minutes of his Pack career (one season) and scored a season-high 17 points. The 6-6 guard was 5-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-4 on threes and made all five of his free throws. Blackshear also had six rebounds and a steal. He did have just one assist but that was because hardly anyone else was making shots.
Blackshear had a 3-pointer to cut UNLV’s lead to 44-31 two-plus minutes into the second half and a steal and layup to pull the Pack to within 47-39 with 14:35 to go. His 3-point play made it 58-48 UNLV with six minutes to go. Blackshear scored 10 points in a span of 13 minutes in the second half. Blackshear had to handle the ball a lot more than usual without Sherfield on the floor and he still had just three turnovers in 37 minutes.
WILL BAKER: B-
Baker played a season-high 31 minutes but, like Cambridge, picked the occasion to turn in one of his worst shooting nights of the year. The 7-foot center missed 10-of-15 shots, all three of his threes, to finish with 12 points. Baker, though, was having an outstanding night until he missed his last six shots over the final 15 minutes of the game. He made five of his first nine shots and scored all 12 of his points in the first 25 minutes of the game. He had six points (and a steal and an offensive rebound) in a span of just two minutes to cut UNLV’s lead to 47-37 with 15 minutes to go.
DANIEL FOSTER: D
Foster played a career-high (two seasons) 31 minutes and did what he normally does. He rarely shot the ball, missing his only two shots. He also had just one rebound, one block and no steals. He was called for three fouls and turned the ball over twice.
Foster plays as much as he does because he does a dependable job of facilitating the offense. His four assists led the team. But his teammates basically treat him like a wall. They pass the ball to him and know it will bounce right back to them or another teammate. Foster scored just two points and now has six points (1-of-10 shooting) over his last five games and 102 minutes combined. When Foster is on the floor opposing defenses know they only have to defend four players.
TRE COLEMAN: B+
Coleman turned in one of his best performances in his two-year Wolf Pack career. He was 5-of-5 from the floor and scored 10 points in 30 minutes, to go along with four rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal. He also never turned the ball over. The five successful field goals equaled his total of the last five games combined.
Coleman arguably was the best Pack player on the floor at times Tuesday. That was certainly the case for much of the second half when he scored eight points in the final 10-plus minutes. His jumper cut UNLV’s lead to 51-45 with 10:14 to go and he was the only Pack player to score (six points) in the final four minutes of the game. All three of Coleman’s defensive rebounds were directly followed by Wolf Pack baskets. And he converted a short jumper in the paint off his lone offensive rebound.
BENCH
K.J. HYMES: D

Hymes, who has played in just 10 games this season because of various injuries, played just nine minutes against UNLV, even with Washington missing. He missed his only shot (a layup), had just one rebound, was called for two fouls and made 1-of-2 free throws. His highlight was a block of a Keshon Gilbert layup with 11:26 to play. This has been a lost season so far for the player once voted the Preseason Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
ALEM HUSEINOVIC: D
Huseinovic played 18 minutes and didn’t take a shot. He scored two points on a pair of free throws and had just one rebound and turned the ball over once. He’s now played 37 minutes over the last two games and scored seven points with two rebounds. Nine of his 18 minutes on Tuesday came in one stretch in the first half. He entered the game with the score tied 4-4 with 16:12 to go and left with the Pack trailing 21-12 with 7:11 left. He also played the final three minutes of the first half and the Pack was promptly outscored 10-5 to go to the halftime locker room trailing 42-26.
JALEN WEAVER, DeANDRE HENRY: Incomplete
Both Weaver and Henry played just three minutes. Weaver had a foul and a turnover while Henry missed a 3-pointer.
COACHING: B
There wasn’t much Steve Alford could do in this one, given the absence of both Sherfield and Washington and basically the entire team in a shooting slump. We saw what the Pack offense looks like without Sherfield for the first time since the point guard came to Reno last season and, well, it’s not pretty. This Pack team, because of a thin bench that is afraid to shoot, let alone score, just cannot overcome injuries, sickness or even bad shooting nights.
Alford, though, somehow got this depleted lineup on Tuesday to play solid defense and fight to the end and keep the score somewhat respectable. The Pack held UNLV scoring star Bryce Hamilton, who was coming off a 42-point effort against Colorado State, to just 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting (2-of-9 on threes). Put Sherfield on the floor on Tuesday and the Pack probably wins by 11.
OVERALL: C
How can we give a grade of C when the Pack lost by 11 to its most hated rival? Well, that wasn’t the Pack out on the court Tuesday night. Alford was just looking for warm bodies to give him some minutes on Tuesday. At times he looked like Hoosiers’ coach Norman Dale about to put the team manager Ollie on the court.
How depleted was the Pack on Tuesday? All five Pack starters played 30-plus minutes for the first time in Alford’s three seasons at Nevada. The only way Alford would do that on a normal night is if all five starters were named either Sherfield, Jalen Harris or Alford.
But, despite the double-digit loss, there were some encouraging signs in this game for the Pack. The most encouraging was the play of Coleman. Also, it’s probably fair to simply just dismiss this loss to a bad shooting night. Cambridge won’t miss 16-of-20 shots again. Baker likely won’t miss 10-of-15. Well, they better not. But these bad shooting nights are becoming a disturbing trend lately. The Pack, over its last two games (losses to Utah State and UNLV), has missed 27-of-32 3-pointers and has scored just 107 points.
It actually all started with the final six minutes against Colorado State. Since then the Pack has been outscored 161-110 and has shot just 38-of-120 overall (32 percent) and 6-of-36 (17 percent) on threes. And has lost three games in a row. Even five team managers named Ollie should be able to do better than that.

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