No. 6 Nevada eyes revenge on San Diego State
Nevada is rolling through Mountain West Conference play, but a true landmine is next on the slate.
The No. 6 Wolf Pack (24-1, 11-1 MW) visit San Diego State on Wednesday, and the thought of the Aztecs rates as a highly unfriendly reminder.
Nevada's Sweet 16 team from last season lost to San Diego State twice in a seven-day span in early March. The Aztecs led by 30 points at halftime in the second meeting while trampling the Wolf Pack in the Mountain West tournament semifinals.
Nevada coach Eric Musselman is certainly worried about the upcoming meeting, particularly with San Diego State (16-9, 8-4) having won six of its last seven games and emerging victorious in each of its last 12 Mountain West home games.
"They're perfectly capable of beating anyone on any given night, because they're really talented," Musselman told reporters of the Aztecs. "They're as talented as any team we've played all year."
The Wolf Pack arrive in San Diego with a 10-game winning streak and an average margin of 22 points per triumph during the stretch. Five of the victories came by 20 or more points, including Saturday's 82-49 road thumping of Wyoming.
With Nevada rolling, Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher sees a tough task when it comes to attempting to defeat the Wolf Pack for a third straight time.
"It will be a great challenge," Dutcher told reporters. "I'm sure we will get their full attention also, having been fortunate enough to beat them twice at the end of last year. I know that we have been circled on their schedule for a long time, and we'll look forward to our opportunity to see if we can put (forth) the kind of effort needed to come out of here with a victory."
Nevada is 8-1 on the road, while San Diego State is 12-2 at home after dispatching Boise State 71-65 on Saturday.
The Aztecs feature an NBA prospect in sophomore forward Jalen McDaniels, who has team-leading averages of 17.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. Senior guard Devin Watson averages 16.4 points and leads the squad in assists (4.4) and 3-pointers (66).
Nevada relies heavily on senior guard Caleb Martin and senior power forward Jordan Caroline. Martin leads the squad in scoring (19.0) and 3-pointers (81), while Caroline has recorded 15 double-doubles and averages 18.8 points and a team-best 9.8 rebounds.
Caroline ranks sixth in Nevada history with 1,650 points. He also holds the Mountain West record of 42 career double-doubles.
Martin and Caroline figure to be targets of the raucous San Diego State student section -- nicknamed "The Show" -- as the Wolf Pack typically aren't greeted kindly on the San Diego State campus.
"We know it. For whatever reason, it's a place the Wolf Pack are not welcome," Musselman said. "I know what the crowd is going to be like. When you're playing well, the crowds get fired up for you, and the opposition gets fired up."
The intensity level will be high-charged. It wasn't all that long ago that the Aztecs were viewed as the best the Mountain West had to offer, but there is no doubt that Nevada is currently the league's signature program.
And the Wolf Pack certainly want to atone for what happened against San Diego State last March.
"I'm sure if it was the other way around, as soon as that game ended and the schedule came out for the next year, I would have circled that game first," Aztecs senior guard Jeremy Hemsley told reporters. "I know it's going to be an intense game. They have really good players and like Coach Dutch said, they're well-coached. It's going to be fun."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 19, 2019