RENO, Nev. — Utah State (11-9, 2-5) travels to Nevada (9-8, 3-3) to kick off a stretch of four games in eight days.
“It’s going to be a tough game. We know that. Anytime you go on the road in our conference, especially this season, you know you’re up for it and in for a major battle,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
The Aggies hope to capitalize on their breakthrough win over San Diego State and start a winning streak to move up the conference standings.
“I think the other day you saw a team that was hungry, that felt like they had something to prove. Certainly, the result obviously was something that we wanted, but how we went about it was really important for me personally and our team,” Odom said. “The defense is improving. The offense was back to looking more normal again.”
In recent history, Utah State has dominated Nevada, winning the last four games between the teams; however, the Aggies have lost four straight at Lawlor Events Center.
Due to COVID-19 issues both within their program and with opponents, the Wolf Pack has had three conference games postponed. As a result, they are one win ahead of the Aggies in the conference standings with one game in hand.
In their last contest, Nevada lost to Colorado State 66 to 77. Only six different players scored for the Wolf Pack, but guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. led all scorers with 23 points. Cambridge shoots the most 3’s per game on the team, making 33.1% from beyond the arc. He averages 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
“Cambridge is a really good scorer,” Odom said. “He’s a guy that we’re really going to have to mark and make sure that we’re forcing hard shots.”
Last year’s Mountain West Newcomer of the Year is the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer. After a stellar 2020-21 season, guard Grant Sherfield has improved his averages in nearly every statistical category. Nevada’s offense is powered by Sherfield and he has taken advantage of his opportunities thus far, ranking second in assists and fourth in scoring in the conference. The Junior from Fort Worth, Texas puts up 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
“Everything kind of starts with Sherfield. Excellent Player. He really makes their team go in a lot of different ways. It’s not just his scoring ability. Certainly, he’s capable of getting well over 20 (points) in games if not 30 if left unattended and he’s really feeling. But more than anything, he makes winning plays for his teammates,” Odom said. “He’s just a really important player for their team.”
Nevada emphasizes speed in their offense and will look to score on transition as often as possible.
“They play really fast. They’re one of the fastest teams in the country in terms of time of possession,” Odom said. “Transition defense is going to be imperative.”
The Aggies will have to be careful in the paint due to Nevada’s solid rim protection. They average 3.4 blocks per game, led by Cambridge and forward Warren Washington.
“They can really bother you at the rim. If you take the wrong shots near the basket, it could be a problem,” Odom said. “Our ball movement, our player movement is going to be really important.”
Utah State will be without guards Rylan Jones and Brock Miller again due to injury. Jones is in concussion protocol and Miller is dealing with a back injury. Neither practiced on Friday.
Forward Justin Bean, the leading rebounder in the conference, is expected to play after suffering a right eye injury while colliding with teammate Sean Bairstow last game. Bean wore a large bandage during Friday’s practice.
“It looked terrible the day after. It was pretty much shut, but through ice and whatever else he’s been doing, it’s beginning to open up. It still looks kind of nasty, but he’s going to be able to play,” Odom said.
The action will start at 8 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.