Saturday evening, the University of Nevada Men’s Basketball team will travel to Logan, Utah, to face Utah State in an effort to maintain their lead in the Mountain West regular season championship race. The goal of the game is to end the team’s four-game winning streak.
Nevada and Utah State have already met once before this season, when the Pack won at the Lawlor Events Center by a score of 85-70.
On 9-15 shooting from the field, Kenan Blackshear scored a game-high and a career-high 28 points in the contest. He also had five assists.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Will Baker also put on a great performance, scoring 24 points on 10-to-14 shooting and 3-6 shooting from behind the arc.
In the first game, Jarod Lucas scored 21 points on 7-14 field goal shooting and 3-6 from behind the arc against Utah State. The Pack defeated the Aggies thanks to a phenomenal second half performance.
Prior to Saturday’s matchup, Nevada had won four straight games, the most recent of which was a 77-66 victory over Fresno State on Friday.
In the victory over the Bulldogs, Will Baker and Kenan Blackshear each scored a team-high 19 points.
In the game, Baker grabbed five rebounds and scored 19 points on 5-7 shooting from the field, 1-2 from behind the arc, and 8-9 from the free throw line. Throughout the season, Baker has continued to improve his stats, currently ranking third on the team and 14th in the Mountain West in scoring (13.6 points per game). In addition, Baker is fourth in the conference in free throw percentage (83.9%) and third in field goal percentage (56.5%).
Against Fresno State, Blackshear scored 19 points on 8-13 shooting from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line. He also had a game-high seven assists, three rebounds, one steal, and one block. In 35 minutes of action, he finished the game with a plus/minus of +17, which was a game-high.
This season, Blackshear is still in the top 15 of the Mountain West in a number of statistical categories. He currently ranks second in the league for assists per game (4.7 APG), fourth in steals per game (1.7 SPG), seventh in field goal percentage (46.0%), eighth in free throw percentage (79.4%), eighth in points per game (14.8 PPG), 10th in minutes played per game (32.4 MPG), and 13th in the assist to turnover ratio (1.5).
Blackshear has reached double figures in scoring in 17 of 26 games this season, including 19 points and seven assists against Fresno State. He has also given the Pack at least three assists in all but two games this year.
One of the best performances of his young career came from freshman Darrion Williams against Fresno State. He scored 16 points on 4-5 shooting, 2-2 from behind the arc, and 6-7 from the free throw line. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and gave five assists.
On Monday, Williams was honored as the Mountain West Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this season for his outstanding performance in Nevada’s victories over Fresno State and New Mexico.
Williams has continued to dominate the glass for the Pack this season, currently leading the team and ranking sixth in the conference in rebounds per game with an average of 7.1. Williams likewise positions 10th in the Mountain West in takes per game, as he is averaging a noteworthy 1.5 per challenge.
In the matchup with the Bulldogs, Jarod Lucas also scored in the double digits. He scored 13 points and made 6 of 6 free throws. Lucas has scored in the double digits in 24 of 26 games this season, totaling 25 of those games.
This season, Lucas leads the Mountain West in numerous individual offensive statistical categories. He ranks second in the conference for free throw percentage (85.8%), made 3-pointers (70), 3-point field goal percentage (40.0%), minutes played per game (34.5 MPG), points scored per game (17.7 PPG), and field goal percentage (41.5%).
With shooting percentages of 54.5 percent from the field (24-44), 50 percent from behind the arc (6-12), and 88.5 percent at the free throw line (23-26), the Pack’s offensive performance against Fresno State was outstanding overall.
Nevada also played well defensively, holding Fresno State to just 66 points on 41.4 percent field goal shooting and 31.3 percent from three-point range.
Throughout the year, the Pack’s offense has continued to improve; they now rank fifth in the league in terms of scoring offense (73.7 points per game), continue to lead the Mountain West, and have the highest free throw percentage in the country. This season, Nevada is making 79.9% of their free throw attempts, which is fourth best in the nation.
In a variety of statistical categories, Nevada’s defense continues to rank in the top five of the Mountain West, as it has for the majority of the season.
In terms of opponent field goal percentage (41.8 percent), forced turnovers (332), defensive rebounding (24.6 per game), opponent 3-point field goal percentage (35.3%), and opponent points per game, Nevada is third in the conference.
Nevada will face a difficult challenge on the road against the Aggies on Saturday because Utah State has one of the best offenses in the Mountain West this season and plays in a raucous home environment.
Scouting Utah State
Utah State’s offense has been the team’s main source of energy throughout the entire season. They currently rank second in the league in scoring, averaging 79 points per game.
This season, the Aggies have shot 41.1 percent of their 3-point attempts, placing them first in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage. They have also been fantastic from behind the arc.
In addition, Utah State has performed admirably from the free throw line. With a free throw percentage of 76.4%, they rank second in the Mountain West behind Nevada.
The Aggies have five individuals scoring at least 11.0 points per game on an individual basis. Utah State is led by Steven Ashworth, who scores 15.6 points per game and converts 47.1 percent of his 3-point attempts. Each game, Ashworth is making an average of 3.3 attempts from behind the arc. He also has the most assists on the team, with an average of 4.5 per game.
With 13.5 points per game and 5.4 boards per game, Taylor Funk is second on the team in scoring. He shoots 44.4 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from behind the arc.
The Aggies’ strong presence in the paint this season comes from Dan Akin. He is grabbing a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game in addition to scoring 12.1 points per game on 64.0 percent shooting from the field.
The other Aggies scoring in double figures are Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow. Shulga is averaging 11.9 points per game while shooting 36.8% from behind the arc, and Bairstow is averaging 11.0 points per game while shooting 49.2% from the field and 43.8 percent from deep.
The Aggies have been good on offense, but they have struggled on defense, allowing 70.1 points per game and eighth in the league in opponent 3-point field goal percentage this season.
Nevada will need to keep an eye on the 3-point line, play well offensively, and limit turnovers if they want to stop Utah State from getting open looks in transition and sweep the Aggies for the fifth time in a row.
History of the Series
Nevada and Utah State have played each other 58 times, with Nevada winning the series 34-24 over Utah State.