The Nevada basketball team laid the smack down on UNLV on Sunday night at Lawlor Events Center, pasting the rival Rebels, 89-60, to improve to 11-7 overall and 6-5 in the Mountain West. Here are three takeaways from Nevada's win over UNLV in game one of the series with the finale coming Tuesday.
1. Felt like Musselman vs. Menzies
Honestly, this game felt like an Eric Musselman-coached team versus a Marvin Menzies-coached team. Nevada has rarely blown out UNLV in the 92-game history of this series, which dates to 1961. Entering Sunday's game, the Wolf Pack has scored 20-plus-point wins over UNLV only four times, including the first matchup between the teams 70 years ago and three games in which Eric Musselman coached against Marvin Menzies. Nevada's 29-point win over UNLV on Sunday was the second-most lopsided in favor of the Wolf Pack in the rivalry's history trailing only a 36-point win at UNLV in 2017 (a 94-58 win at Thomas & Mack). Yes, UNLV was without its top scorer, Bryce Hamilton (ankle), but that doesn't explain a 29-point loss when both teams came in ranked nearly identical in NET and on KenPom. Prior to the game, Steve Alford talked about his disappointment over getting swept at Wyoming and was hopeful it was a bump in the road rather than a precursor to future issues. "We took a step back and now we have to take a step forward if we're going to have a chance in this next series against UNLV," Alford said. Well, Nevada certainly took that step forward by playing its best game of the season, scoring a 99 out of 100 game score. The Wolf Pack played flawless and showed there's still a big gap between it and UNLV, with Nevada winning a program-best seventh straight game in this series. In fact, Nevada has lost to UNLV only twice in the last six seasons, the first one coming thanks to a Hail Mary heave by Patrick McCaw in 2016 and the second one with Caleb Martin injured and out in 2017.
2. One of Nevada's best shooting efforts ever
Ever since Nevada changed its rims at Lawlor Events Center, it seems like the Wolf Pack can't miss. And the team couldn't make before the rim change. Most likely it's a coincidence, but Nevada's shooting effort against UNLV was historically good. The Wolf Pack made 14-of-24 3-pointers, which wasn't quite a school record, but it was pretty close. Nevada's most made 3-pointers in a game are 17 (out of 34 attempts) in a contest at Pacific on Nov. 18, 2017. But in terms of accuracy, this was Nevada's second-best long-range shooting game ever (minimum of 20 attempts). The Wolf Pack's 14-of-24 shooting from deep calculates to 58.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The school record (again, with a minimum of 20 attempts) is a 15-of-24 effort against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 11, 1999. That's 62.5 percent accuracy. So, Nevada missed tying the school record by one made three. Overall, Nevada shot a season-best 56.4 percent from the field, which was well off the school record of 69.2 percent (36-of-52) against Eastern Washington on Jan. 20, 1990. But when it comes to 3-point shooting, it rarely gets better than Sunday when you look through the Wolf Pack record book. Nevada had seven players hit at least one 3-pointer. Six of those players made at least two threes. Nobody made more than three. So it was a team-wide shooting barrage, which is more difficult to stop from a defensive perspective than one player getting hot.
3. Sherfield channels his inner Armon
One of the reasons Nevada was so successful from three was the masterful performance of Nevada point guard Grant Sherfield, who had a career-high 11 assists. It also works in reverse with Sherfield getting so many assists thanks to his 3-point shooters knocking down shots. In fact, eight of Sherfield's assists came on made 3-pointers, so he only gets that assist if his shooters are sharp. But Sherfield got Nevada's gunners open for a number of great looks. He became the first Nevada sophomore to record double-digit assists in a game since Armon Johnson also had 11 against Oregon State on Nov. 22, 2008. Sherfield chipped in 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting to become the first Nevada sophomore to record a double-double with assists since Johnson in that same that same game (he had 11 points in the 79-71 home win over the Beavers). Johnson went on to become an NBA draft pick. Let's not put that kind of pressure on Sherfield, but he's certainly playing like a Mountain West player of the year candidate. Nevada would have to go on an incredible run over the second half of the conference season for Sherfield to win the award — it always goes to a player whose team finishes high in the standings — but outside of one poor game against Wyoming, Sherfield has been lights out in conference play. In MW action, he's second in the league in points (18.8 per game), second in assists (6.2) and seventh in steals (1.4) while vastly improving his efficiency from his freshman season at Wichita State last season.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.