Grading Nevada

Wolf Pack sweeps Spartans, ready for Rebels

Nevada’s Grant Sherfield is guarded by San Jose State’s Omari Moore on Feb. 17, 2022 in San Jose, Calif. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Nevada’s Grant Sherfield is guarded by San Jose State’s Omari Moore on Feb. 17, 2022 in San Jose, Calif. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 90-60 victory on Thursday over the San Jose State Spartans at San Jose:

Can one player do more in 29 minutes than what Sherfield gave the Wolf Pack on Thursday? The point guard dominated the 29 minutes he was on the court, scoring 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, draining 3-of-4 threes, dishing out 10 assists, pulling down six rebounds and grabbing a steal. He scored 14 points and had four assists in 16-plus minutes in the first half and 11 points and six assists in 12-plus minutes in the second half.
When he was on the court the Pack outscored San Jose State 68-41. He was directly responsible for 47 of those 68 points, scoring 25 and dishing out 10 assists that led to 22 points. Sherfield, who normally eases himself into games, started out on fire on Thursday. In the first 10 minutes he had 12 points, three assists, three rebounds and a steal as the Pack shot out to a 23-13 lead. He was responsible for 19 of those 23 points on 12 points and three assists that led to seven points. Sherfield just might be putting himself back into the Player of the Year picture in the Mountain West.
Cambridge, now that Sherfield is back, has returned to the role that suits him best, that of an explosive, complementary player that contributes all over the court. He had just three points in the first 15-plus minutes as the Pack built a dominating 38-19 lead. So the Pack didn’t really need Cambridge’s offense to beat the Spartans.
His biggest flurry was a steal and a dunk followed by a rebound and a 3-pointer in a span of just 1:17 late in the first half to expand the Pack lead to 43-19. Cambridge then added nine points and two blocks in the first seven minutes of the second half and then didn’t score again, to finish with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. There might not be a better 3-point shooter in the nation right now. After going 1-for-9 beyond the arc against UNLV on Feb. 1, Cambridge is 27-of-46 (59 percent) on threes over his last six games.
Blackshear is a starter but he also might be the best role player in the Mountain West. His role is to do a little bit of everything each minute he’s on the floor. He had seven points and seven rebounds, as well as an assist and a block in his 30 minutes. He only took five shots, making three. His dunk off a feed from Tre Coleman gave the Pack a 13-7 lead and his 3-pointer put the Pack up 26-13. His only two points in the second half gave the Pack a 64-30 lead with 13:43 to play. He seems to be the perfect complementary player to Sherfield, Cambridge and Will Baker.
If Baker could play the San Jose State Spartans every game he’d eventually be a first-round NBA draft pick. The 7-foot- center had 16 points and five rebounds in just 23 minutes on Thursday. In two games against San Jose State this week he scored 39 points in just 43 minutes on 18-of-22 shooting and also had 11 rebounds. He dunked the Spartans into submission on Tuesday and came back two days later for his first dunk on Thursday just 14 seconds into the game. All 16 of his points came on dunks (6), layups (6), a short jumper in the paint (2) and free throws (2). None of his 39 points in the two games against San Jose State came on a 3-pointer. That’s because he did not attempt a single 3-pointer for the second game in a row, the first time he’s done that (two games in a row without a three attempt) in his 48-game, two-year college career at Texas (2019-20) and Nevada (this year).
Coleman’s emergence as an offensive threat continued Thursday. The 6-7 Coleman, who couldn’t buy a basket in the first 10 games of the season (he was 9-of-53 overall and 4-of-29 on threes) has turned himself into an efficient and timely offensive contributor. He had a career-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting (2-of-3 on threes) on Thursday. Over his last seven games he is 22-of-39 (56 percent) from the floor, 7-of-14 on threes and has averaged 8.1 points. Those 22 field goals are more than half the 42 he has this year, the seven threes are exactly half of the 14 he has this season and the 57 points he’s scored the last seven games are slightly less than half of the 120 he has this year.
Coleman was instrumental in turning the game into a blowout with a pair of threes just 1:25 apart to give the Pack a 36-17 lead with seven minutes to go in the first half. He then had a steal and a layup and another layup just 1:29 apart to give the Pack a 62-30 lead with 14:21 to play in the second half. Coleman played 30 of the game’s first 32 minutes.

Foster didn’t score for the second game in a row (36 minutes combined) but scoring the ball is not really in his job description. Foster’s role, even when he started for four straight games (Sherfield missed three of those games), has always been simply to play defense, hustle and keep the ball moving on offense.
He had three rebounds, two assists and a steal to go along with a couple of fouls and two turnovers on Thursday. He entered the game with just under 13 minutes to go in the first half with the Pack up 16-9. He had an offensive rebound and an assist on a Coleman 3-pointer for a 31-13 Pack lead with 8:24 left in the half. When Foster left the floor the Pack was up 36-17 with 5:31 left in the half.
Foster played the final 13 minutes of the game in garbage time and did feed Sherfield for a 3-pointer and a 79-48 lead with six minutes to go.
Hymes played 17 minutes and contributed four points, three rebounds, a steal, two turnovers and a foul. In those 17 minutes the Pack was outscored 34-29 in a game they won by 30. But the Wolf Pack was up by 20 or more points in the final 13 of Hymes’ 17 minutes so it didn’t matter. His two buckets came on dunks, one in each half. His foul was on offense and he also missed his lone free throw. Want more proof that San Jose State is afraid to be physical in the paint? Hymes had just two fouls in 33 minutes (one every 16.5 minutes) in his two games against the Spartans this week. The rest of the season he had 31 fouls over 168 minutes, one every 5.4 minutes.
This triumvirate (along with Hymes and Foster) served as the Wolf Pack’s version of the Matt Stafford end-of-Super Bowl kneel down over the bulk of the last five-plus minutes or so. Huseinovic, Henry and Weaver combined for 18 minutes and scored seven points with two rebounds and an assist. Huseinovic had three fouls in six minutes while Weaver played the final eight minutes and had a 3-pointer for an 86-50 lead with 4:23 to go.
Steve Alford got his Wolf Pack to play a nearly perfect game on Thursday on the road. Yes, it was against one of the worst Division I teams in the nation at arguably the easiest place for a road team to play well (the Spartans’ average less than 2,000 fans a game). But the Pack dominated just the same, leading the game for all but 33 seconds. The starters were efficient and productive, connecting on 31-of-44 shots, 9-of-15 threes and 10-of-11 free throws, scoring 79 points with 20 assists and 23 rebounds.
Alford has found a way lately to get consistent efforts and production out of all five of his starters, something that eluded him over the first three months of the season. The loss of 7-foot center Warren Washington nine games ago has seemed to solidify the starting unit and has simplified Alford’s rotation and put everyone in well defined roles.
Yes, of course, Sherfield’s return the past four games is the key to everything good and positive with the Pack but Alford has done a brilliant job of restoring confidence to this team.
This is what you are supposed to do to a team that has yet to win a conference game (0-14) as March approaches, has given up on its season and whose players are likely looking longingly at the transfer portal.
Beating the Spartans is expected. The Pack has whipped San Jose State 33 times in 36 games since 2002 and 49-of-61 since 1970. But a 30-point win is always a pleasant surprise and a confidence builder. It’s the Pack’s largest victory since it destroyed Air Force 88-54 on Feb. 4, 2020.
The schedule, though, does get a bit tougher from here on out. All that’s left in the regular season are home games against UNLV and San Diego State and road games at Wyoming and Boise State. But the Pack now looks ready to become a legitimate contender in the Mountain West tournament next month.
Nevada is now 12-13 overall and will likely get back to .500 against UNLV on Tuesday at Lawlor. The Pack will have four things on its side on Tuesday: revenge (the Pack lost at UNLV on Feb. 1), Sherfield (he missed the loss at UNLV), a hot Cambridge (he won’t go 1-for-9 on threes against the Rebels like on Feb. 1) and Lawlor’s fans.


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