Nevada vs. Air Force: Preview, TV Schedule, More
Can Falcons split the series?
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Who: Nevada Wolf Pack (6-2) vs. Air Force Falcons (2-3)
When: Sunday, December 18 – 3:00 PM PST/4:00 PM
Where: Lawlor Events Center; Reno, NV.
Stream: Mountain West Network
Nevada finished their non-conference schedule on a high note after beating the University of San Diego 79-72. The Wolf Pack look to continue their winning ways against Air Force as the Falcons come to Lawlor Events Center in what will be the first conference game for both teams.
This young 2020 season has been unkind to the Air Force Falcons to say the least. They had one game postponed to Covid-19, got blown out by mediocre teams such as Drake and Seattle University, and the Falcon’s go to man in A.J. Walker has had a slow start to the season. The new and improved Joe Scott era was due for a bumpy start as four starters and nearly 60% of the team’s scoring from last season left.
Even Walker tested the transfer waters before coming back to Colorado Springs. While it may be a small sample size, Walker, who shot nearly 40% from beyond the arch his freshman and sophomore year, has only made four threes on 14 attempts this season. Walker is now averaging nine points per game.
Next man up for Air Force is the 6’5 guard, Chris Joyce. Joyce is more than making up for Walker’s lack of productivity as the senior has more than doubled his scoring average from last year. While Walker and Joyce might give the Falcons a nice one-two punch from the back court, it is the front court that is more worrisome. Air Force’s leading big man is the 6’7 senior, Keaton Van Soelen who is averaging just under 10 points a game and is the Falcon’s second leading scorer. The “big three” of Walker, Joyce and Van Soelen can do some damage which we witnessed when they took on CSUN. The three players dropped 47 of the Falcon’s 66 points.
For Nevada, if you would have told fans in the beginning of the season that this team, with only two upperclassmen and no seniors, would have only two losses going into conference play, they would have called you crazy. However, this is where we are with the Wolf Pack only losing to San Francisco and GCU, both good teams in their own right. The back court duo of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge Jr. have proven to be one of the best scoring backcourts in the Mountain West.
Cambridge Jr. seems to have found his groove scoring 24 and 27 in the past two outings. In these two games he shot 54% from the three point line. Prior to the past two games, Cambridge Jr. averaged just nine points and made 18.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arch.
With Sherfield and Cambridge Jr. averaging a combined 31 points a game, the Wolf Pack don’t have to worry about a lack of back court production. However, the concern now switches to who can fill the role as Nevada’s third scorer down the stretch. Nevada needs players such as Zane Meeks, Tre Coleman and Warren Washington to step up and give the Wolf Pack an edge against good teams In the Mountain West.
Keys to the game:
For the Air Force Falcons, defense will be huge as they will try to stop the red hot duo of Cambridge and Sherfield. If they force someone else to score the ball, Nevada will struggle to put points on the board as most of the scoring goes through the two in the back court. The Falcons will also need to limit Nevada’s scoring from beyond the arch. In Air Force’s two losses, they let their opponents shoot 37% and 41% respectively from deep. However, in their two wins, they limited teams to 24% and 16% from the three point line. If Air Force can play defense and limit Nevada’s high scoring offense, then they have a shot in this one.
For Nevada, the Wolf Pack needs to take advantage of the Falcon’s lack of size down low. Nikc Jackson and Van Soelen are the two big men that start for Air Force and are 6’8 and 6’7 respectively. This is a game that 7’0 Washington and 6’10 K.J. Hymes should absolutely dominate. Nevada needs to pair their red hot perimeter shooting with a strong inside presence and this is a series that Nevada should run away with. The Wolf Pack should also take advantage of Air Force’s inability to rebound the ball. The Falcon’s rank 323rd out of 328 teams that have taken the court this season in rebounds per game with a meager 27. Nevada should take a huge advantage on the glass during this series.
Nevada’s back court duo has started to play like the best backcourt in the Mountain West. Pair that with an overwhelming advantage of size down low, Nevada should easily take care of one of the bottom teams in the Mountain West. Air Force’s preseason stud in Walker hasn’t lived up to the hype and the rest of the Falcons just won’t have what it takes to beat Nevada. The Wolf Pack take care of business in the first game of this home series, 75-64.