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

Terrell Brown Jr.
Terrell Brown Jr. is averaging 23 points per game for Washington. (Washington athletics)

The Nevada basketball team plays Washington on Wednesday at Sanford Pentagon. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with his three keys to victory and prediction. This feature is presented in partnership with Bradley, Drendel & Jeanney.

Nevada (2-4) vs. Washington (4-2)

When: Wednesday, 4 p.m.

Where: Sanford Pentagon (3,250 capacity) in Sioux Falls, S.D.

TV/Radio: None/94.5 FM

Online: ESPN+

Betting line: Nevada by 4; total of 148.5

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Defend without fouling: After facing four straight teams that could kill you from three, Nevada gets a reprieve in that regard against Washington, which can’t shoot 3-pointers. The Huskies have made just 28.9 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, so the defensive task for Nevada in this game is different. The Wolf Pack needs to make sure Washington doesn’t beat it in the paint. Overall, Washington is a bad offensive team, one that has made just 39.2 percent of its shots, including 43.9 percent of its twos. Those figures rank 312th and 316th, respectively, in the nation. But one thing Washington does at an elite level is get to the free throw line where it averages 26.8 attempts per game, 13th in the country. If Nevada keeps Washington off the free throw line, there’s a good chance the Huskies’ offense short-circuits as 24.3 percent of the team’s points come from the stripe (28th highest among Division I teams).

2. Beat the zone: Washington head coach Mike Hopkins was an assistant at Syracuse for 22 years after playing for the program and brought the Orange’s famed 2-3 zone to the Huskies. Nevada hasn’t faced much zone defense this season but must solve that puzzle against Washington, which has held opponents to 41.4 percent shooting overall and 33 percent shooting from three while creating 18 turnovers a game, including 8.7 steals. On average, Washington has out-scored its opponent 20-10 in points off turnovers. Washington’s defense is an above-average unit, although not an elite one. Against the Huskies’ zone, Nevada needs great ball and player movement, must knock down its open threes and should pound the offensive glass as defensive rebounding is always a vulnerability when playing zone (Washington grabs just 68.3 percent of its opponent’s misses, which ranks 297th in the nation).

3. No YOLO for Terrell Brown: The best player at the Crossover Classic has been Washington’s Terrell Brown, who is on his fourth college after a JuCo stint before stints at Seattle, Arizona and now Washington. A 6-foot-3 guard, Brown is averaging a career-best 23 points per game and has hit the 30-point mark in two of his last three games, including a career-best 32-point effort in an 87-76 win over South Dakota State on Tuesday, the same Jackrabbits team that beat Nevada by 27. Brown is averaging 27.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals at the Crossover Classic while making 20-of-31 shots. He’s not a 3-point threat, having made just 2-of-10 attempts from three this season, so the key to slowing Brown down is keeping him out of the paint. Washington only has three good offensive players in Brown, PJ Fuller and Jamal Bey, who has struggled this year. If Nevada defends Brown well, it wins.

Prediction

Washington 75, Nevada 72: After losing at home to Wyoming in overtime last week, Washington has responded with its two best games of the season at the Crossover Classic, a three-point win over George Mason before the upset victory of South Dakota State. Nevada also delivered its best game of the season Tuesday in the rout of George Mason, so you have two teams feeling good about themselves 24 hours after wins. Washington’s offense was downright bad in its first four games before stellar efforts the last two times out, so Nevada’s defense, which has been inconsistent to say the least, must be sharp. Did the Wolf Pack turn the corner in Tuesday’s win over George Mason? This game will offer more evidence, but I’m not fully convinced yet. I’ll take Washington, which enters as a four-point underdog. Season record: 3-3

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.

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