Nevada’s Grant Sherfield against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 17, 2021 at Lawlor Events Center in Reno. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)
By JOE SANTOROGrading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 77-73 victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday at Lawlor Events Center . . .STARTERSGRANT SHERFIELD: B + It took Sherfield over eight minutes to take a shot. It took him over 14 minutes to make one. So it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Pack found itself down nine just six minutes into the game. Sherfield led the Wolf Pack in scoring with 17 points but this was a true team effort. Those 17 points are the fewest a Pack leading scorer has had in a victory in almost two seasons, since Sherfield led everyone with 14 in a 62-48 win over North Dakota State in the first game last season on Nov. 25, 2020. Sherfield struggled with his shot again, making just 6-of-14. He’s now gone seven consecutive games without making 50 percent of his shots for an entire game. The last three games he’s also only gotten to the free throw line for eight shots combined. So he’s still searching for his rhythm offensively. But the Pack point guard did make the most of his 17 points. He scored just seven points in the first half but all seven pulled the Pack to within a point each time, including his 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that cut Fresno State’s lead to 37-36. Sherfield had two more threes in the second half, giving Nevada leads of 50-47 and 59-47. On the Pack’s pivotal 12-0 run in the second half, Sherfield had threes to start and end the run. His final two buckets of the night gave the Pack leads of 69-60 with 3:23 left and 76-69 with 26 seconds to go. Scoring points, though, isn’t his only skill. His seven assists led to 18 Pack points (four threes, two layups, one dunk) so he was directly involved in 35 of the Pack’s 77 points. DESMOND CAMBRIDGE: C -Cambridge is still searching for his offense. He was 0-for-3 on threes and is now 11-for-50 from long distance over his last seven games. And when Cambridge isn’t draining threes, he struggles to put points on the board. He finished with just nine against Fresno State in 32 minutes. He did make 4-of-8 shots, but when Cambridge takes just eight shots in 32 minutes that’s a good sign he has lost confidence in his shot. He got to the line just once and he pulled down just three rebounds. Cambridge played the first nine-plus minutes of the game and didn’t even take a shot. But he saved his night with a 17-second flurry midway through the second half. Cambridge had a steal and a layup and converted a three-point play to give the Pack a 54-47 lead with 12 minutes to go and 17 seconds later had another steal and a layup to make the score 56-47. Take away those 17 seconds and Cambridge had a forgettable game.KENAN BLACKSHEAR: BBlackshear continues to give the Wolf Pack excellent production. He played just 25 minutes against Fresno thanks to four fouls but he contributed 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Blackshear also pulled down five boards and had two steals and he made his only two 3-point attempts. Blackshear had nine points in the first half despite sitting out the final eight minutes with two fouls. In the second half he had a 3-pointer for a 47-45 lead and a jumper for a 63-52 lead. He has been one of the more consistent players on the roster this season.WARREN WASHINGTON: CWashington had just nine points and three rebounds in 28 minutes. And, like most of his teammates, he struggled to make free throws, missing half his six shots. The 7-foot center, though, also had a pair of assists and a steal and a block and did make 3-of-4 shots. So he did contribute something more than just serving as another big body to throw at Fresno State center Orlando Robinson. Washington also struggled in the second half when he had just two points and one rebound.WILL BAKER: BBaker played just 22 minutes, despite never picking up a foul. He was extremely efficient and productive offensively with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and he made both his 3-point attempts. Baker also had five rebounds and an assist and a steal. He hit a 3-pointer for a 41-40 lead with 17 minutes to play. His offensive rebound and layup gave the Pack a 43-40 lead 90 seconds later. He also had a layup for a 67-56 lead with just under five minutes to play before sitting the bench for the final 2:43.BENCHTRE COLEMAN: CColeman played just 16 minutes (his fewest of the year) and was 1-for 3 from the floor and 1-of-4 from the free throw line for three points. He’s now at 24 percent from the floor and 16 percent on threes for the season. Coleman had a pair of steals and an assist but also didn’t grab a rebound. He missed a layup midway through the second half and then sat the bench for all but 18 seconds of the final 7:48. In the first half he missed a pair of free throws with 11:54 to go and then missed a 3-pointer and had a turnover six seconds apart with 10:23 to go in the half. Coleman, despite his obvious offensive shortcomings, will continue to see substantial minutes off the bench because of his quickness, athleticism and length on defense.DANIEL FOSTER: CFoster, because of his never-ending hustle and energy, has a knack of picking up some stat (good and bad) almost every trip down the court. He played just 22 minutes against Fresno but somehow found the time to score four points on 1-of-2 shooting (2-of-4 from the line), miss a 3-pointer, dish out two assists, grab two steals, turn the ball over three times and, yes, commit five fouls. The first time he entered the game (with 13:06 to play in the first half), he had a layup, two rebounds, three turnovers, a foul and a steal in less than five minutes.K.J. HYMES: CHymes was on the floor for just a dozen minutes. He was 1-of-2 from the floor and 3-of-6 from the line and finished with five points. He had just one rebound but did block two shots. Both of his blocks came against Fresno State center Orlando Robinson just 26 seconds apart midway through the first half.ALEM HUSEINOVIC: IncompleteHuseinovic played just four minutes (all in the first half) but he was extremely active with two steals, two turnovers, a foul and a missed 3-pointer. One of his steals came against Robinson in the first half.COACHING: ASteve Alford somehow squeezed out an all-important victory on a night when his team was a frightening 14-of-29 from the free throw line (10-of-21 in the second half) and his two stars (Sherfield, Cambridge) combined for just 26 points. But Alford seemed to push all the right buttons in this one, rotating his big men (Baker, Washington, Hymes) in and out of the game to keep Robinson guessing and tired. Robinson played 36 minutes and did finish with a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds but it must be noted that the Pack centers (Baker, Washington, Hymes) combined for 28 points and nine boards in 62 minutes. Alford expressed his displeasure with his team’s toughness and basketball intelligence after losses at home to Boise State and Wyoming and they responded against Fresno State. The Pack was an efficient 21-of-32 inside the 3-point arc and outscored Fresno State, 34-22, in the paint. The Pack also had 13 steals and forced Fresno State into 16 turnovers.OVERALL: B
Just remember the score and forget everything else. When you shoot just 14-of-29 from the line you are asking to lose. The Pack received 13 more free throws than Fresno State but made just one more. This should have been a double-digit victory but nothing is easy for this Pack team in this strange season. Fresno State came out sharp, taking a 19-10 lead six minutes into the game. But the Bulldogs, playing their third game in eight days, seemed to simply run out of gas as the game progressed. The Pack likely won this game in the first half of the second half, which shows this team listens to its coaching staff. The Bulldogs always struggle when Robinson isn’t pouring in points and that was never more apparent than in the first 11 minutes of the second half. Robinson, who had 16 points in the first half, didn’t score until there was 8:43 to go in the second half as the Pack built a 61-52 lead. When Robinson wasn’t scoring, the Pack went on a 12-0 run over a two-minute stretch to take a 59-47 lead with 11 minutes to play. A two-minute stretch is sometimes all you need to win in the Mountain West. Put this game in Fresno and the Pack likely loses by a dozen since Fresno State would have had more energy at home. But the Wolf Pack showed how you can win a game at home simply by playing with toughness, taking intelligent shots and grinding out every possession, things Alford told them all week in practice.