The Nevada basketball team hosts Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with his three keys to victory and prediction.
Loyola Marymount (1-0) at Nevada (0-1)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Lawlor Events Center (11,536 capacity)
TV/Radio: AT&T SportsNet/94.5 FM
Betting line: No line posted yet
Three keys for Nevada to win
1. Rebound the basketball: This was the same No. 1 key in the season opener against Utah, but Nevada failed to do that, losing the glass battle by 19. The Utes are a far bigger team than Loyola Marymount, whose starting lineup tops out at 6-foot-8, so Nevada will be the bigger roster in this game and should be able to win the rebounding battle. In the loss to Utah, the Wolf Pack grabbed only four offensive rebounds and scored zero second-chance points. It must do better than that to add some margin for error for an offense that is short on players who can create their own shot. Lindsey Drew tied for the team lead in rebounds in the first game, and it’s not usually a good thing when your point guard is your leading rebounder. The Wolf Pack big men should have a lot of success on the glass versus the Lions.
2. Give Drew some help: Nevada is expected to be without talented wing player Jalen Harris, who injured his right foot in the season opener. Harris is a huge part of this team, so his loss will be felt. Drew stepped up in Harris’ absence with a 30-point, eight-assist, six-rebound effort against Utah, but nobody else outside of perhaps Johncarlos Reyes (six points, six rebounds, two assists) played an above-average game. The Wolf Pack is down to eight eligible scholarship players, so everybody needs to contribute. Jazz Johnson scored 16 points (but on 6-of-16 shooting) and Nisre Zouzoua added nine points (but on 3-of-10 shooting), so those two went a combined 9-of-26, good for 34.6 percent shooting. As experienced seniors, those two must play well until Harris returns to the court. Nevada can’t expect Drew to match in game two what he did in game one (literally it was the first time somebody put up that line this decade), so he needs some help.
3. Strong in the interior: College basketball (and basketball in general) has become a 3-point-oriented game, although Loyola Marymount has bucked that trend. Veteran coach Mike Dunlap has stuck with traditional inside-out basketball. His team attempted just 510 3-pointers on 1,800 shot attempts last season, a 3-point rate of 28.3 percent (comparatively, 42.8 percent of Nevada’s shots last season were threes). The Lions had the third-lowest 3-point attempt rate in the nation last season and while the team is without 7-foot-3 center Mattias Markusson, who is redshirting following the death of his mother, it would not be a surprise if Loyola Marymount continues to ditch the three to focus on more traditional basketball (only 18 of the Lions’ 63 shots in its opener were from three, 28.6 percent). Nevada’s interior defense was a little soft against Utah and must be stronger against Loyola Marymount.
Nevada 78, Loyola Marymount 69: While Loyola Marymount lost top scorer James Batemon to graduation as well as Markusson, the team’s second-leading scorer, the Lions do return three solid players from last year’s 22-win team. But the majority of this roster is young, including seven freshmen on their 14-player roster. This will likely be a rebuilding year for Loyola Marymount, which is projected to finish seventh in the 10-team West Coast Conference. Nevada being without Harris narrows the margin between the teams, but the Wolf Pack still has the better roster. Nevada already has one game against a Division I opponent under its belt, whereas Loyola Marymount opened the season with a win over a Division III team. The Wolf Pack’s veteran backcourt must play well, and I think the group will do enough to lead Nevada to its first win of the season and first victory under coach Steve Alford. Season record: 0-1