The Wolf Pack return to The Pit
January 1st, 2017, was the last time New Mexico (7-6, 1-0) hosted Nevada (14-0, 1-0) and the game resulted in the second biggest comeback in NCAA history (largest second-half comeback ever). After trailing by as much as 25 in the second half, Nevada was still down 19 with under five minutes to go. Jordan Caroline notched a career-high with 45 points (highest opponent points at The Pit ever) and 13 rebounds. After a barrage of threes late in regulation and in overtime, Nevada shocked the college basketball world and sealed the deal 105-104.
With all of the preseason hype surrounding Nevada, one of the biggest questions was “how well will they defend.” As Nevada’s defense has continued to improve over the course of the 2018-19 season, that question has been answered. Over the Wolf Pack’s last eight games they’ve allowed over 68 points once (at Utah 86-71).
Their last game out against Utah State was their best defensive performance of the season and they held the Aggies to just 49- Holding an opponent under 50 was something Nevada hadn’t done since 2014 and Utah State hadn’t been held to under 50 since the first month of 2015. Getting to the rim against this Nevada squad isn’t easy with their abundance of shot blockers. If opponents aren’t hitting the three, good luck.
Preseason Mountain West player of the year and preseason All-American, Caleb Martin, finally shot his way out of a shooting slump in their road game at Utah and scored 25 of his career-high 33 in the second half. Caleb got into foul trouble vs. Utah State and only logged 21 minutes and scored in single digits for the first time. Luckily Nevada has several scoring options and his teammates were able to carry the load in a 72-49 win.
New Mexico hasn’t lived up to the hype to this point of being a top three team in the conference. The Lobos have lost five of their last eight and only two of those wins were against a D-1 opponent. They’ve relied heavily on their teams leading scorer, Anthony Mathis, who takes a large majority of his shots from three. To be exact, 106 of his 133 season attempts have come from beyond the arc.
New Mexico is averaging 79.8 opponent ppg (#302), 15.6 turnovers/gm (#306), and 35.1 rebounds/gm (#181). Everyone knows Nevada is beyond dominant in the 2nd half of games this season and the stat that might hurt New Mexico the most- They are #303 in the nation in 2nd half opponent scoring and Nevada is #8 in 2nd half scoring themselves. This could be a recipe for disaster for the Lobos.
In what’s guaranteed to be a hostile environment, the Lobos will need to be as efficient as possible to have any chance at all. Nevada opens as a 14.5 point favorite and shouldn’t have any problem wearing down New Mexico in the 2nd half. 5 bullets to cover-
- Keep the Pit quiet- This one might be the most important. After what Nevada did to New Mexico two years ago, Lobo fans have been dying for payback. Transition dunks are a crowd favorite, don’t let it happen.
- Blanket Anthony Mathis- Mathis getting hot from deep might be the Lobo’s best shot at pulling a huge upset. Careful on switches, don’t go under screens, hand in his face.
- Stay out of foul trouble- For a majority of the season Nevada has done a good job of avoiding this but as of late they haven’t. Both Martin twins, Trey Porter, and Tre-Shawn Thurman have all been prone to foul trouble. No dumb fouls and please refs- don’t call clean blocks on Nevada.
- Stay humble- I understand sometimes your emotions get the best of you on the court- but any technical fouls could get the Pit rowdy. Trey Porter could probably have about 10 technicals this season for showboating/taunting, and he’s lucky he doesn’t. Dunk on someone and get back on defense. No free points for the Lobos.
- Get out and run. Nevada’s bread and butter. Long rebounds lead to easy points for the Wolf Pack. Get to the hoop or look for Jazz, Caleb, or Caroline (I heard he’s pretty good at the Pit) beyond the arc.
I expect another convincing win for Nevada to move to 15-0 and set an all-time school record. The Lobos are simply no match for the Pack and this one could get ugly.