Grading Nevada: Nearly perfect Cambridge not enough for Wolf Pack

Nevada’s Desmond Cambridge, Jr., who scored a game high 36 points against Colorado State, contemplates his next move against John Tonje on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center. (Photo: Steve Ranson/LVN)

Nevada’s Desmond Cambridge, Jr., who scored a game high 36 points against Colorado State, contemplates his next move against John Tonje on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center. (Photo: Steve Ranson/LVN)

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 82-72 loss on Tuesday to the Colorado State Rams at Lawlor Events Center:

Sherfield, playing for the first time after missing three games with a foot injury, gave the Wolf Pack a much-needed 36 minutes. He was a bit rusty (1-of-6 on threes) and a bit sloppy (five turnovers) and he had a difficult challenge of containing Colorado State point guard Isaiah Stevens.
But Sherfield’s presence on the floor is exactly what the Pack (Desmond Cambridge in particular) needed. He had seven assists and four rebounds was a calming influence on everybody in silver and blue. Sherfield did have a pair of turnovers less than a minute apart that led to four quick Colorado State points early in the second half. But with Sherfield on the floor for the final 13:38 the Pack outscored the Rams 31-27.
Cambridge played a nearly perfect game on offense, hitting on 13-of-15 shots, 7-of-9 threes and 3-of-4 free throws for 36 points. Yes, Cambridge scored half the Pack’s points.
It is the last time that has happened at Nevada since Armon Johnson scored 25 points in a 47-46 win at Hawaii on Feb. 14, 2009. Cambridge’s 36 points are the most points scored by a Pack player since Jalen Harris had 38 against Air Force on Feb. 4, 2020. This was Cambridge’s second 30-point game as a Pack player (he had 31 against Boise State in the Mountain West tournament last year). But he did have five 30-point games in his two seasons with Brown.
This is the type of performance the Wolf Pack desperately needed the last three games (all losses) with Sherfield out. But you could sense the pressure off of Cambridge against Colorado State with Sherfield back. Cambridge, who rarely goes inside the 3-point arc for shots, was 6-for-6 on shots inside the circle. He had 17 points in the first half and 19 in the second half. He made his first six shots, missed a three, and then made seven in a row before missing his final shot with 14 seconds to play. But if you can give a team 36 empty-calories points in a game, well, this was it. None of Cambridge’s 36 points put the Pack in the lead or even extended a lead. All 19 of his points in the second half never brought the Pack any closer than eight. So it wasn’t like Cambridge was hitting pressure-packed shots.
Blackshear, relieved of his duties of running the offense now that Sherfield was back, had eight points, five assists, four rebounds and a block and a steal. He also only turned the ball over once and made 3-of-6 shots. It was a steal and an assist by Blackshear that led to a Will Baker dunk and the final Pack lead of the game (8-7). All four of Blackshear’s assists in the second half led to Cambridge buckets. He blocked a shot by Isaiah Stevens late in the first half and hit a jumper and a layup a minute apart in the second half to pull the Pack to within 10 with just under six minutes to play. David Roddy, though, stole the ball away from Blackshear with 30 seconds to play with the Pack down by eight.
Baker played just 23 minutes without picking up a single foul. That’s because those 23 minutes produced a mere two points, two assists, two turnovers, a rebound and a block. Baker missed 3-of-4 shots overall (all in the first half), misfiring on both of his threes. The 7-foot center did contribute in the first half with his only two points on a dunk and his only two assists. He also blocked a layup by James Moors with 10:23 to go in the half. But he basically vanished in the second half (he played just six minutes) as coach Steve Alford had him bouncing back and forth from the bench.
Coleman played 29 minutes before fouling out with 2:43 to play. He was 1-of-3 on threes and also missed a layup. His 3-pointer cut the Rams’ lead to 59-44 with 12 minutes to play. That, however, was the extent of his offense (no assists, no free throws). Coleman’s defense consisted of two rebounds, no blocks and no steals as Colorado State shot 51 percent from the floor and 46 percent on threes.

Foster gave the Pack a productive 11 minutes off the bench in the first half and eight frustrating minutes in the second half. He overall scored six points (one more than Baker and Coleman combined) and had four rebounds (again, one more than Baker and Coleman combined). Foster also had an assist and even found the time to commit four fouls. In a span of just 55 seconds midway through the first half he assisted on a 3-pointer by Sherfield and had a dunk off a Sherfield assist. He played the final 1:51 of the first half and had two rebounds, a layup and a turnover. In just over eight minutes in the second half, he didn’t score, had just one rebound, committed three fouls and missed two shots.
It is amazing how many things Hymes can do in such a short time. The always-active and energy-filled 6-foot-10 center played just 12 minutes. In those dozen minutes he made 2-of-3 shots from the floor and 2-of-3 from the line and had a rebound, a turnover and, of course, five fouls. Hymes had 10 fouls in just 29 minutes in his two games against Colorado State this year (21 fouls in 66 minutes over five games against the Rams in his career). Hymes played just two minutes in the first half because he picked up two fouls in a span of just 31 seconds. In his first 67 seconds of play in the second half he had a foul and a turnover. But the evening did get better for Hymes. He had a free throw and a dunk midway through the second half. He hit a short jumper and a free throw for a three-point play as the Pack narrowed the deficit to 70-58 with 6:28 left. And his defensive rebound led to a Cambridge three as the Pack was suddenly down just 74-66 with 3:45 to go. But his fifth foul came 29 seconds later.
Huseinovic played just eight minutes and Henry was on the court for two. They each had a rebound while Huseinovic, who played 78 minutes in the Pack’s previous four games combined, also had a foul and an assist.
Should a veteran and celebrated coach like Steve Alford who is making seven figures a year have been able to steal this victory at home? Isn’t that why you pay a guy seven figures a year? Sherfield, after all, came back and played 36 minutes. Cambridge had an unbelievable, once-a-career game. And the Pack still was never really in this game for the most part. Most everything was ripe for a Pack win on Tuesday. The Pack was at home. It had the motivation of trying to rid itself of an annoying five-game losing streak. Colorado State had been struggling, losing two of its previous three games. And that one victory also felt like a loss as the Rams nearly blew a 20-point lead in the final 10 minutes. The Rams lost to UNLV, for goodness sake, just 11 days ago. At home, no less. So, yes, this looked like a true trap game for the Rams. So why didn’t Alford steal this victory at home with a guy (Cambridge) who couldn’t miss? Well, he hasn’t really been that type of coach since he came to Nevada. Jalen Harris carried his team two years ago and Sherfield did it last year. Alford’s Wolf Pack has been a mediocre 25-25 since the final two games of his first season in Reno. They have been 14-18 against Mountain West teams during that stretch. The Pack is now in jeopardy of finishing under .500 for the first time since coach David Carter’s last year in 2014-15.
The Pack, despite Cambridge’s 36 points, simply gifted this game to the Rams. Colorado State had 24 points off 14 Nevada turnovers. The Pack had just three points off eight Colorado State turnovers. The Rams also outscored the Pack 22-9 from the line. So you could also argue the officials also gifted this victory to the Rams. Cambridge was wonderful but his performance was almost negated by the Rams’ David Roddy, who was 11-of-14 from the floor and scored 29 points. Everybody not named Roddy scored 53 points for the Rams. Everybody not named Cambridge scored 36 points for the Pack. And that included Sherfield.


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