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

Jalen Harris
Jalen Harris and the Wolf Pack host Wyoming on Tuesday. (Nevada Sports Net)

The Nevada basketball team plays against Wyoming on Tuesday. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with his three keys to victory and prediction.

Wyoming (5-13, 0-6 MW) at Nevada (10-7, 3-2 MW)

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Lawlor Events Center (11,536 capacity)

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/94.5 FM

Online: None

Betting line: Nevada by 14.5

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Full focus and effort: I don’t usually make this a key because it should be a given, but with Wyoming coming to town, the only way Nevada does not win this game is if it doesn’t take the Cowboys seriously. Wyoming has lost 21 of its last 26 MW games, with 17 of those defeats coming by double-digits. This program is simply not in a good position, and it’s very young. The Cowboys are winless in six MW games this season with those losses coming by a combined 74 points (12.3 per game). Wyoming did at least force UNLV into overtime in its last game, losing that one by nine, so the Cowboys could have a little confidence brewing because it was competitive last time out. But that game also was at home, and Wyoming has been much worse on the road over the years. If Nevada is fully engaged, it will win.

2. Plus-10 on the glass: Nevada was out-rebounded by 15 boards in its last outing, a 10-point loss at Utah State, but the Wolf Pack should cream Wyoming in that category. The Cowboys are the sixth worst team in Division I (out of 353) in rebounding margin at minus-7.3. Wyoming is especially bad at getting second-chance points. The Cowboys have just 82 offensive rebounds in 18 games. That’s 4.6 per contest. I’ve never seen a number that low. Wyoming’s offensive rebounding rate of 10.9 percent is last in the nation. The second-lowest total is Loyola Chicago at 16.7 percent. Wyoming is comically bad at offensive rebounding. The Cowboys are small in the frontcourt – 6-foot-10, 235-pound Hunter Thompson is the only player taller than 6-7 in the rotation – so Nevada should dominate the glass.

3. Get the game into the 70s: Wyoming’s offense is highly challenged. The Cowboys average just 60.4 points per game, which is last in the MW and 10th worst in the nation, so Wyoming has resorted to slowing the pace of the game to a crawl (329nd in tempo, per KenPom at 64.9 possessions per game, six fewer than Nevada averages). The Wolf Pack can’t let Wyoming dictate the pace by slowing things up. The Cowboys have scored 70 points in only four of its 18 games. If Nevada gets to 70 points, it almost certainly wins this game – the Wolf Pack is averaging 75.3 points per game, so it should hit that mark. Wyoming is shooting 40.8 percent from the field, including 31.6 percent from three, so there isn’t a lot firepower here outside of sophomore wing Hunter Maldonado, whose 17.9 points per game rank third in the MW. No other Wyoming player averages double-figures. If Nevada draws Wyoming into a shootout, it’s an easy win for the Wolf Pack.

Prediction

Nevada 74, Wyoming 61: Nevada’s offense has been great the last four games and the Wyoming at least has a capable defense, so the Cowboys’ route to victory is slowing the pace, shrinking the number of possessions, not turning it over and playing solid defense to keep the game close. That could happen, but Nevada should be able to run away with this one as long as it continues to make its threes and gets something out of the frontcourt. This is a good matchup for Nevada and Wyoming is 2-15 in its last 17 true road games, so a loss here would be calamitous. Nevada has a tough stretch coming up after this game with a road contest at San Diego State and home games with UNLV and New Mexico. Those three teams are 14-2 in MW games this season. Securing a win against Wyoming before that stretch is mandatory, and Nevada shouldn’t have much of an issue accomplishing that. Season record: 14-3

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