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Nevada vs. Pacific: Three keys to victory and a prediction

Caleb Martin
Caleb Martin and the Wolf Pack host Pacific on Friday. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

The Nevada basketball team hosts Pacific on Friday. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with three keys to victory and his prediction.

Pacific (1-0) at Nevada (1-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lawlor Events Center (11,536 capacity)

TV/Radio: None/94.5 FM

Online: ESPN3

TV crew: Trey Bender; Richie Schueler

Betting line: Nevada by 21; total of 150.5

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Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Use your size: Pacific’s tallest starter is 6-foot-7, and that’s Jahbril Price-Noel, a 200-pound freshman guard. Nevada’s smallest starter is 6-7 and goes 6-11 at center with Trey Porter, who should have a field day in this game. The Wolf Pack has a much bigger frontcourt than the Tigers and that should show up on the backboard (Pacific was plus-18 on the glass in its first game, though) and in points in the paint. Despite having the potential to go with two 6-11 players in the post (Jordan Brown being the other), Nevada has largely stuck with one big in its first three games, including two exhibitions. It will probably do the same in this game, but should still have a big edge down low. The Wolf Pack started its game against BYU by feeding Porter early and often and should stick with that formula against under-sized Pacific.

2. Hit 10 threes: The only way the Wolf Pack loses this game is if it goes ice cold from three, which is a possibility considering Nevada has failed to hit even 29 percent of its threes in any of its first three games. But if the Wolf Pack hits 10 3-pointers, this will be a rout given Nevada’s overall personnel edge. Pacific did a good job of holding its first opponent – Southern Illinois-Edwardsville – in check from deep, limiting the Cougars’ to 8-of-31 from three (25.8 percent). Nevada hit a school-record 17 3-pointers in its win over Pacific last season (the Tigers were poor defending the three last year), but the Wolf Pack has made just 18-of-73 3-pointers (counting the exhibitions) this year. Nevada heated up in the second half of its win over BYU, and if that continues Pacific has little chance to hang with Nevada.

3. Create some turnovers: Nevada’s defense was sturdy against BYU, limiting the Cougars to 37.7 percent shooting, including 6-of-31 from three, but it didn’t create many turnovers with just eight takeaways. The Cougars don’t turn the ball over very often, but the Wolf Pack’s new-found depth and ability to press if it chooses should yield more turnovers. Nevada has not been good at creating turnovers under Eric Musselman (one of its few shortcomings and partially related to that previous lack of depth), but that shouldn’t be the case this season. Nevada has all of the required parts to be good at forcing turnovers. Toss in the fact Pacific had 21 turnovers in its first game – that total was just three shy of its made field goals (24) – and the Wolf Pack should be able to create some mistakes and turn those into easy transition points.

Prediction

Nevada 92, Pacific 68: Nevada opened the season with some stiff competition (BYU), but it really shouldn’t be challenged over its next five games. That run starts with Pacific and then includes Little Rock, Cal Baptist, Tulsa and either UMass/Southern Illinois. Not only should Nevada not lose those games, they shouldn’t be close. Pacific has been a long-time nemesis of Nevada, but the Wolf Pack has won three straight in the series, and the Tigers aren’t the same caliber of program since coach Bob Thomason retired in 2013 after 25 seasons at the helm. Damon Stoudemire (Musselman coached him in the NBA) is in his third season in Stockton and could build a successful program in time, but Pacific is still in the rebuilding stage after going 25-40 in Stoudemire’s first two seasons. After playing a strong second half against BYU, the Wolf Pack should have minimal issue with Pacific. I expect a lopsided win. Season record: 1-0

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