Around the Rim: Nevada at Utah St

Around the Rim: Nevada at Utah St

Playing at the Smith Spectrum, Utah State's home court is not only one of the toughest places to play in the Mountain West, but also in the nation. The Wolf Pack defeated the Aggies 62-54 in their first meeting, so Stew Morrill will have Utah State looking for revenge.

Utah State Guard Spencer Butterfield
In the first meeting between the teams, Utah State, usually a well above average shooting team, shot only 2-16 from beyond the arc. The question is whether or not this was the Aggies' bad shooting or the Wolf Pack's great defense. It was a combination of both. Nevada is the best in the MWC in holding conference teams to poor shooting, but Utah State's reliable shooters seemingly disappeared. Butterfield was one of those typically effective shooters (shooting 47% from three on the year) who had a terrible shooting night, going 1-7 from deep. The senior, typically known as just a shooter, only scored seven points (six points below his season average of 13), and his overall impact on the game was limited. For Nevada to win in Logan, Butterfield and the other shooters will have to be contained by the Wolf Pack- not stopped, but contained.

Utah State Forward Jarred Shaw
In A.J. West vs. Shaw matchup, round one went to West who went 5-8 from the floor for 11 points and 7 rebounds. Shaw, on the other hand, had 19 points and 8 rebounds, but took 20 shots to get those 19 points. Nevada fans will take that every day of the week. Unlike the Air Force matchup for West, this game provides the perfect style to fit his defense game, an opposing big man with back to the basket talent who is very unlikely to step out and hit a jump shot. For Shaw and the Aggies to have the advantage, Shaw will have to reach or even go above his season averages of 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds, but be much more effective than he was in the first meeting. This is the type of matchup that cannot be a push for Utah State if they want to win. This will be the second matchup between the two big men so Shaw should be a bit more familiar with West and have a better game than the first matchup, similarly to how Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. seemed to figure West out in the second matchup and increased his output.

Nevada Guard Deonte Burton
Stew Morrill is familiar with the Nevada program having coached against Nevada teams while in the WAC and now the MWC. So Morrill has seen and coached against successful future Nevada NBA point guards Armon Johnson and Ramon Sessions, but the coach has said Burton may be the best of the bunch. It's hard to argue that point. So the best point guard Nevada basketball may have ever seen will need to prove why he is receiving such high accolades. Utah State has one of the best home court advantages so keeping the crowd out of the game or at least limited will be huge. How does a team do that?  Quick baskets after big shots for the home team or momentum shifting baskets for the away team usually get the job done and Burton is the most likely player on the Wolf Pack team to make that happen. In the first game against the Aggies, Burton had 14 points on 5-9 shooting which is efficient and productive, but Nevada needs more than just that in Logan. Nevada needs an all-conference performance of 20+ points with 6+ assists.

Utah State is not as talented as Nevada. On paper Nevada should win, but home court advantage and revenge are things that cannot be quantified and for that reason the Aggies should win at home.
Utah State 71 Nevada 64

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