By Marc Voisenat, Jr.
December 21, 2019 9PM at Chase Center in San Francisco, CA (ESPNU)
Saint Mary’s looks to keep its hot shooting alive as it faces the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday night as a part of the Al Attles Classic at the newly erected Chase Center in San Francisco, CA. The Gaels come into the game having just taken down back to back Pac-12 opponents in CAL and Arizona State, with the latter being a 40 point blowout in Arizona. Nevada is coming off a throttling of Texas Southern, and hope to ride that momentum in their final game before conference play begins.
The Nevada Wolfpack (8-4) have had a bit of an up and down year. After losing coach Eric Mussleman, star guards Caleb and Cody Martin, and 85.7% of their scoring the Wolfpack have had to try and find their identity again. They’ve played competitively for most of the season, with two loses coming by 10 points or less. However then also have two losses come by 20+ points. It seems that on any given night you don’t know what Wolfpack team is going to show up. Nevada is paced by their three guard tandem of Jalen Harris, Jazz Johnson, and Lidnsey Drew. The trio are all averaging double digit in points, and the latter two are shooting 40% plus from three. They’ll look to keep their impressive scoring against a not so great defensive Saint Mary’s team.
Similar to the Arizona State game, Nevada comes in as a pretty solid defensive team when looking at the numbers. On the defensive end Nevada is allowing opponents to shoot only 27.3% percent from the three point line, and 39.8% from two, which are marks they are going to hope continues. The bad news is they are giving up 23.3 free throw attempts per game, good for only 312 in the nation. The Gaels aren’t great at drawing fouls, as they average only 17.3 free throw attempts per game (226th in the nation) but they do shoot the lights out. If Nevada can’t contain the three point shooting of the Gaels, their chances of winning this are slim to none.
Saint Mary’s will need to continue to do what it’s been doing the past couple games, which is play amazing offense. Over the past two games the Gaels are averaging 92.5 PPG on 57.3% from the field and a staggering 63.4% from deep. If Saint Mary’s can continue this pace, they will win a national championship. More realistically, these percentages will average out but the Gaels are still one of the most formidable offenses in the country. For how great the Gaels are on offense, their defense continues to struggle. A team like Nevada can get hot, and if the Gaels struggle to contain the stellar trio of guards Nevada has, this game can end up being closer than many people may imagine.
In the end I believe that the offensive prowess of the Gaels will be too much for Nevada to handle, and I see Saint Mary’s winning this game 78-65.
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