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Nevada-Cal Baptist: Three keys to the game and a prediction

Eric Musselman
Eric Musselman and the Wolf Pack take on Cal Baptist on Monday. (Nick Beaton/Nevada athletics)

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

Cal Baptist (2-1) at Nevada (3-0)

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lawlor Events Center (11,536 capacity)

TV/Radio: None/94.5 FM

Online: Stadium

TV crew: Ari Wolfe (Play-By-Play), Steffie Sorensen (Color Analyst), Dani Klupenger (Courtside)

Betting line: Nevada by 25.5; total of 155.5

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Make Milan Acquaah inefficient: Cal Baptist is in its first season as a Division I school (it is located in Riverside and plays in the WAC), but the Lancers do have some D-I talent, namely Washington State transfer Milan Acquaah, who played with the Ball brothers at Chino Hills High. Acquaah transferred to Cal Baptist this season and is putting up big numbers (19.3 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.7 rpg) but doing so while shooting just 33.9 percent from the field. He’s especially trigger-happy from beyond the arc, where he attempts nine 3-pointers a night (making just 29.6 percent of those shots). That’s low efficiency, but he’s dangerous when he gets going and it was his halfcourt buzzer-beater than sent Cal Baptist past Oral Roberts, 70-68, earlier this season. Given how often he shoots, Acquaah is probably going to get around 20 points. Nevada needs to make him take 20 shots to get to that figure, though.

2. Win the 3-point line: Cal Baptist has made 34 3-pointers while allowing just 17 3-point makes (that’s a plus-51-point advantage from three). Nevada has made 33 3-pointers while allowing just 19 3-point makes (that’s a plus-42-point advantage from three) Both of these teams like to take threes and are used to out-scoring their opponent from that spot of the court. Nevada has been more efficient, shooting 38.4 percent from distance to Cal Baptist’s 36.2 percent, but both can heat up from three. The Lancers attempt 31.3 3-pointers per game and shot 42 of them in its last game, a three-point loss to Tulsa. For Nevada, Caleb Martin is attempting 10 3-pointers per game (up from 6.9 per game last season). He’s hitting at a 40 percent clip, so expect a lot of threes from Martin and Acquaah, in particular.

3. Keep living at the stripe: You may have noticed the officials have been whistle-happy to start the season. That’s how every year begins and then the refs cool it a little. Nevada has taken advantage of those quick calls by drawing 79 fouls while being whistled only 58 times, leading to a 91-50 edge in free throws attempted. The Wolf Pack is shooting 69.2 percent from the free throw line, which isn’t great, but its opponent is at 50 percent, leading to a 38-point edge from the line, a 12.7-point advantage per night. Cal Baptist has been foul prone and has not gotten to the line very often (minus-34 in free throw attempts compared to its foe), so this should be a major advantage for the Wolf Pack, as it has been all season.

Prediction

Nevada 92, Cal Baptist 70: Despite being a first-year D-I school, Cal Baptist is a capable team, as evidenced in its games against Oral Roberts (a close win) and Tulsa (a close loss). That being said, the Lancers rank 200-plus in both offense and defense, per Ken Pomeroy’s advanced metrics. If Nevada even approaches its potential, this game should not be contested late in the second half. The Wolf Pack’s big three of Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin have started the season well – they’re averaging 48 points, 21 rebounds and 15 assists per game – and Cal Baptist doesn’t have the talent to match up with those three. Nevada has increased its margin of victory in each game this season, going from 16- to 22- to 28-point wins and while I expect this one to be a little closer than Nevada's last game, it should still be pretty lopsided in the end. Season record: 3-0

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