Grading Nevada: Pack’s season of missed opportunities

Nevada forward K.J. Hymes (42) and Boise State guard Marcus Shaver Jr. (10) battle for a rebound during the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament on March 10, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Nevada forward K.J. Hymes (42) and Boise State guard Marcus Shaver Jr. (10) battle for a rebound during the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament on March 10, 2022, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

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Grading the Nevada Wolf Pack’s 79-72 victory over the New Mexico Lobos on Wednesday and the 71-69 loss to the Boise State Broncos on Thursday in the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas:
Sherfield was the player the Wolf Pack needed him to be in Las Vegas, scoring 27 points against New Mexico with 10 rebounds and five assists and 25 against Boise State with six assists and three rebounds. He played 77 of the 80 minutes in the two games and hit 19-of-37 shots from the floor and 13-of-14 free throws. Sherfield’s tournament started out slowly with just six points in the first 18 minutes of the New Mexico game and ended slowly, missing three shots in the final 2:42 against Boise State.
But in between he put the Pack on his back. After sitting out for nearly two minutes midway through the first half against the Lobos, Sherfield played roughly 66 of the final 67 minutes of the Pack’s stay in Las Vegas, scoring 46 points. He scored 15 points in the final 10 minutes of the New Mexico game, carrying the Pack to the victory. He played all 20 minutes in the second half against San Diego State and was absolutely brilliant for the first 17, scoring 17 points.
Sherfield, though, missed a 3-pointer, a short jumper in the paint and had a layup blocked in the final 2:42 against the Aztecs, which is maybe why he was so passive on the Pack’s final possession in the last 10 seconds of the game and didn’t even touch the ball.
Cambridge, on the surface, had a solid tournament, scoring 30 points in 53 minutes and hitting 6-of-15 3-pointers. But it was a roller coaster two games in Las Vegas for the Pack guard. It all started with a foul-filled, frustrating night against New Mexico. Cambridge had a miserable first half against the Lobos, scoring just five points and picking up a technical foul. But he salvaged his night with three 3-pointers in the second half. Cambridge played just six of the final 24 minutes in the game because of foul trouble and finally fouled out with 3:31 to play.
Cambridge didn’t pick up a single foul against Boise State in his 35 minutes and was a big reason for the Pack’s quick start (ahead 22-15) with eight points in the first six-plus minutes. But the rest of his game against Boise State was a hodge-podge of mistakes and struggles. He scored just three points in the final 14 minutes of the first half, missing 4-of-5 shots as the Pack fell behind 38-33 at the break (scoring just five points in the final nine-plus minutes). In the second half he scored just five points in his 18 minutes. He was also just 1-of-3 from the free throw line, missing a crucial front end of a one-and-one with 2:40 to play and the Pack down just four. His only two points in the final 19 minutes of the game came off an offensive rebound under the backer after a Sherfield miss.
It was also Cambridge who dribbled the ball into traffic on the final Pack possession against Boise State, seemingly forgetting Sherfield was on the floor and wide open trailing the play. Cambridge, who basically dribbled himself into trouble, then made the questionable decision of passing to Kenan Blackshear, who was 1-of-7 from the floor in the game at the time.
Blackshear had just 12 points in 62 minutes in the two games, missing all three of his free throws, with seven turnovers. He had a nightmare start to his tournament, turning the ball over four times, missing a jumper and his only free throw in the first 15 minutes of the New Mexico game. But then he played very well against the Lobos, scoring nine points in a span of just six-plus minutes at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. He also had a rebound and an assist on a Sherfield 3-pointer that gave the Pack a 67-58 lead with 5:21 to play.
The Boise State game, though, might haunt Blackshear for the rest of his college career. He scored just three points on 1-of-8 shooting (1-of-6 threes) in 25 minutes and had four fouls. His only points came on a 3-pointer with the Pack down a dozen with 10:33 to play. He then missed two free throws with 1:40 to go and a wide-open 3-pointer with about five seconds left as the Pack lost by two. But he probably should not have taken that last 3-pointer.
Coach Steve Alford sat him on the bench for five-plus minutes and didn’t put him back in the game until there was just 2:29 to play. He then missed two crucial free throws with 100 seconds to play. The next thing he knew he was the one taking the game-deciding shot at the end of the game.
Coleman played 69 minutes in the two games, was just 1-of-4 from the floor and scored nine points (6-of-8 from the line) with two assists, four steals and eight rebounds. He plays big minutes because he’s one of the few players on the roster under 6-foot-10 that plays defense.
But he also contributed in a timely manner on offense down in Las Vegas. Coleman made two important free throws with 13:45 left and two more with 38 seconds to play against New Mexico. His 3-pointer with 2:15 to go against Boise cut the deficit to 71-67 and 16 seconds later he blocked a shot by Marcus Shaver in the paint. He also made a pair of free throws with 4:32 to play against Boise that got the Pack to within five.
Washington played 25 minutes off the bench against the guard-oriented New Mexico Lobos, scoring 11 points with eight rebounds. He started against the more physical Boise State Broncos and scored 13 points with five rebounds in another 25 minutes. His 3-point play gave the Pack a 45-43 lead with 14 minutes to go against New Mexico. He was a force in the first 10-plus minutes against Boise State, scoring eight points. Six of those points came in a span of just 51 seconds midway through the half as the Pack built a 28-20 lead. Washington also hit a short jumper and assisted on a Cambridge dunk in the first minute of the second half.
The rest of his night, though, consisted of just two points as he sat the bench in 11 of the final 17 minutes of the game.
Baker played just 15 minutes in each game, starting against New Mexico and coming off the bench against Boise State. Baker’s 30 minutes of playing time consisted of 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, three rebounds, a steal and three turnovers. His two highlights of the tournament came on a pair of buckets 34 seconds apart with eight-plus minutes to go against New Mexico and a 55-second flurry with 12-plus minutes to go in the first half against Boise State when he had a 3-pointer, a steal and a dunk. Other than that, though, you begin to understand why he played just 15 minutes in each game. Baker might have started against New Mexico but he played just four seconds of the final six minutes. He also played just 83 seconds of the final 9:49 of the first half. He was on the floor for the final 2:29 against Boise but didn’t do much of anything, as evidenced by his lack of willingness to crash the boards on the final shot.
Foster played 46 minutes in the two games, took just two shots (he missed them both) and scored just three points. He had four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 25 minutes against New Mexico as well as five fouls and a turnover. His one big moment of the two games was an offensive rebound off a miss by Sherfield followed by an assist on a dunk by Baker that cut Boise State’s lead to 62-56 with 7:32 to play.
Hymes’ lost season came to a predictable end in Las Vegas. He played exactly 11:09 in the two games (he was credited with 12 minutes) and scored one point, had one rebound, turned the ball over once and was called for five fouls. He played 5:42 against New Mexico State, all in the first half. He played 5:27 against Boise State, split evenly between one appearance in the first half and one in the second half. The good news is that the Pack actually outscored New Mexico and Boise State 18-17 combined when Hymes was on the floor.
The end of the Boise State game was disturbing as Alford simply stood on the sideline and watched the Pack season come to a close. Desmond Cambridge pulled down the rebound off an ill-advised (why didn’t Boise drive the lane and try to at least get fouled with a two-point lead?) 3-point attempt by Marcus Shaver in the left corner with about 15 seconds to play.
Instead of giving the ball to Sherfield so the Pack point guard, team leader and best player, you know, could run the offense properly, Cambridge simply took off ahead of his teammates. He started winding and weaving his way through the Boise State defense looking like a businessman in a rental car in a strange city without a GPS.
He then, predictably, dribbled himself into trouble, saw an open Blackshear and flipped him the ball with about six seconds to go. Blackshear, who had already missed 6-of-7 shots, tossed up a brick off the back iron and that was the end of the season. Nobody crashed the boards. Sherfield never touched the ball. Nobody paid attention to Baker, who was basically wide open on the left side. And Alford just stood there. There were so many things wrong in those final dozen seconds, too many to list here, but it all started with Alford.
Sherfield simply covered up a lot of the Pack sins in Las Vegas. The Pack beat New Mexico because Sherfield was brilliant. Yes, the Pack played solid defense on the Lobos’ Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn. But House did score 19 points in just 29 minutes and got to the free throw line for 11 shots. He simply missed 3-of-4 threes. And Mashburn couldn’t shoot inside the 3-point circle, missing 8-of-10 shots.
The Pack then used an opening 10 minutes against Boise State when they made 12-of-16 shots to keep them in the game to the end. Boise was flat, disinterested and a little under the weather (Shaver was ill and hadn’t practiced all week). But nobody really noticed the Pack was up just 28-20 after those first 10 minutes. And the Pack would make just 14 more field goals the rest of the game. Boise then outscored the Pack 51-41 over the final 30 minutes and led for the final 25:49.
The Broncos led by six or more points for basically the entire second half until they missed their final four shots in the final two minutes and almost let the Pack steal the game. The Broncos were tired (all five of their starters played 30-plus minutes) and Shaver was operating at about 60 percent capacity and missed 10-of-13 shots.
But the Boise State game was indicative of how this entire Pack season of missed opportunities played out all year. When Sherfield wasn’t brilliant, or simply didn’t touch the ball, the Pack fell short.


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