By Stone Harper
Nevada has already endured an eight-game losing streak this season. With losses last week to Utah State and Fresno State, the Wolf Pack is half way to matching that long losing skid. Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get any easier for Nevada this week as it takes on bitter rival UNLV today, then treks to MWC-leading and former No. 25 Wyoming on Saturday.
NEVADA VS. UNLV PART TWO
It was a polarizing scene: a packed Thomas and Mack Center was on edge as Nevada guard Marqueze Coleman walked up the court with the time dwindling down on a 62-62 tie. Anticipation turned to shock as Coleman pulled up from right in front of the three-point line and swished a shot, catapulting Nevada to a 64-62 victory over rival UNLV.
Tonight will be the highly-anticipated rematch inside Lawlor Events Center. The key to stopping the Rebels will be shutting down UNLV’s standout freshman Rashad Vaughn. Vaughn is a likely first round pick in next year’s NBA draft, and was a five-star prospect coming out of high school and has done nothing but impress during his time in Las Vegas. Vaughn is currently averaging 17.9 points per game, which not only tops the team’s average but is also third in the Mountain West Conference.
Nevada has had trouble stopping high-scoring guards this season. It allowed California guard Tyrone Matthews to score 29 points and in its first matchup against Fresno State the Wolf Pack allowed Bulldogs guard Marvelle Harris to go off for 40 points.
The way for Nevada to sweep the series against its bitter rival will be to contain Vaughn. If Nevada guard Tyron Criswell can play lockdown defense, then the Rebels will have to rely on other scorers and that will serve the Wolf Pack well.
TOE-TO-TOE WITH THE MWC’S BEST
The Mountain West has a bunch of talented teams, but Wyoming is the current gold standard of the conference. Traveling to Laramie will be the toughest conference game Nevada has all year. On the season Wyoming is 17-3 and tops in the MWC at 7-1, while rising as high as No. 25 in the AP poll.
The Cowboys are currently being paced by senior forward Larry Nance Jr. who is averaging 16.6 points per game along with seven rebounds. The do-it-all forward has been on a hot streak lately. In the last five games Nance Jr. has averaged 19.2 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game, all while leading the Cowboys to four wins.
Nevada forward AJ West will have to continue to excel with his rim protection and the Wolf Pack will have to continue with its great defense in the paint. If the Wolf Pack is able to do these things, it will be able to notch its most impressive victory of the season and possibly right the ship.
Stone Harper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @StoneHarperNVSB.