Last season, the Huskies late game mistakes cost themselves the game resulting in another disappointing loss to a beatable opponent. This season, injuries have prevented the Huskies from posting any big time, quality wins. The Wolf Pack enters Saturday’s contest with a 4-4 record with their latest game ending in a 6 point loss against the Pacific Tigers in overtime.
The Wolf Pack are led by a pair of guards in 6-1 190lb Deonte Burton and 6-5 215lb Malik Story, both of whom hit key 3-pointers in last season’s win over the Huskies. Burton lit up the Dawgs for 31 points, while Story dropped in 13 of his own on their way to a 76-73 win in OT over the Huskies.
Burton has been having another very solid season with a team high 19 point per game average. Burton has scored in double digits in all but the season opener with 5 games of 19+ and 3 with 25 or more. To say he is an aggressive scorer is an understatement. Burton knows how to attack the hoop and draw fouls. When he gets to the line, Burton drills his free throws with a 78% clip, though he has posted several games at 85% or higher. The Huskies struggled mightily last year against a surging Deonte Burton and Burton has only gotten better since that game. I’m not sure the Huskies have the tools to shut down a player as explosive as Burton and their goal should be to limit his touches on the ball as much as possible. Keeping Aziz N’Diaye in the paint as a defensive threat is an absolute must for the Dawgs if they want to have a shot at containing Burton.
Story has likewise stepped his game up this year and is the only other Wolf Pack member in double digit scoring. Story is more likely to step back behind the arc for the long ball than Burton, but is skilled in driving the lanes as well. As with Burton, Story knows how to draw a foul and is hitting the freebies at a respectable 77%. C.J. Wilcox has been a solid defender this season and will likely cover Story for most of the night with Scott Suggs still questionable and will play limited minutes should he return.
Cole Huff leads Nevada in their limited rebounding efforts. With a 5.1 per night average, Huff does a decent job for a 6-8 205lb small forward. Desmond Simmons will likely come off the bench behind Jernard Jerreau, something I do not agree with, and the duo of Simmons and Jerreau should not have too many troubles getting position on Huff due to their length (Jerreau) and strength (Simmons).
Aziz N’Diaye needs to have a big night to get back up to his double-double average he had been maintaining most of the season. At 11.4 points and 9.6 points, N’Diaye has been having a solid, but underwhelming year for a guy who is likely the strongest and most athletic big man in the Pac-12. At 7-0 and 265+lb, N’Diaye has struggled far too often to exert his will on smaller defenders. I’m not sure what needs to change in order for N’Diaye to start picking up 15+ points and boards a night as I believe he is fully capable of doing, but perhaps Simmons could give him a few pointers on how to gain positioning on defenders.
Shawn Kemp and Scott Suggs may return Saturday night and their presence will be much welcomed as the Huskies depth has hurt them more than anything this season. Kemp’s return should be much heralded as this will give N’Diaye a more extended rest without hurting our strength on the post and also supplies the Dawgs with a more scoring able body deep in the paint.
The Huskies look to continue their two game winning streak with what will hopefully be a more commanding win. The Wolf Pack guards will be a tough challenge for the Huskies, while the frontcourt is far from daunting. I suspect the Dawgs will have another tough match ahead of them due to the scoring ability of Burton and Story, but the Huskies should be able to out rebound Nevada.