By Chris Boline
To say that Nevada’s loss to New Mexico was to be expected is completely untrue. The Wolf Pack came out firing and were up by 14 points at one moment against the Lobos.
The white-out crowd was jazzed up, and Nevada seemed poised to knock off a top 25 team for the first time this decade.
However, as seems to be the case for the Pack this season, all good things must come to an end.
Nevada collapsed and fell to the Lobos by the same margin that it once led by. With its penultimate home game behind them and a tough test of contests leading up to the Mountain West tournament, the Wolf Pack can improve its seeding, but even more importantly it can play for pride.
The latter component will be especially prevalent in the final game of the season, which will be against a little team from down south.
BRONCOS’ FEATURE 14-4 RECORD AT HOME
Boise State’s record of 19-10, or its conference record of 9-7, might not seem overwhelming, but similar to Utah State, its record at home is.
The Broncos have won the last four of their five games, including two one-point victories over both New Mexico and UNLV.
The big match-up this time around will be between the six-foot-nine Ryan Watkins and AJ West. Watkins has been averaging a double-double this season (11.4 ppg and 10.7 rpg), and he was not far off his average (11 points and 11 rebounds) earlier the season when the two teams matched up at Lawlor.
However, the premier scoring battle will be between Derrick Marks and Deonte Burton.
Marks scored 21 points in the first game earlier this season, while Burton was limited to seven points.
If Nevada is going to be successful against the Broncos, then not only do they need to be able to limit Marks and Watkins, but also be able to defend the perimeter against three-point specialist Anthony Drmic. Cue Jerry Evans Jr.’s theme music.
UNLV LOOKING FOR REVENGE IN REMATCH
This is what everyone has been waiting for. The rematch of the season is upon us, and it may be blessing for Nevada if it is able to pull out a victory, although it may be hard to come by.
While the Rebels haven’t been as ferocious as they were last year, they were able to hang with the big dogs of the Mountain West with wins against New Mexico, Boise State and Wyoming.
There is a gap between them and the top two of the Mountain West, but they have been known to go on runs, as evidenced by their seven-game winning streak earlier this season.
The key to this game is doing exactly what Nevada did in its first meeting against the Rebels. More specifically, Deonte Burton has to score an insane amount, because another 29-point barrage would possibly seal a victory if it’s efficient.
However, this might be asking for a lot. Also, if Cole Huff and West can defend the twin totem poles of Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith, and limit them to under their near double-double season averages, then the Pack might be able to seize some much-needed momentum going into the conference tournament.
Chris Boline can be reached at email@example.com.