Story and Photos by Mike Smyth
The Nevada Wolf Pack defeated the Eastern Washington Eagles 91-76 before 7,103 fans at Lawlor Events Center as both teams tipped off their 2021-22 campaigns on Tuesday.
The Pack, led by head coach Steve Alford in his third season at the helm, rolled out a starting five of guards Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge Jr., forwards Warren Washington and Tre Coleman, with Will Baker at center.
Aside from being the starting five, they also shared something else. Not one of them had played in front of fans in a Nevada uniform.
“That’s what I was most anxious about, after what, 600 days, was how they would handle playing in front of a crowd.” said Alford. “I’m very pleased. I liked our effort. Both teams played hard, and I thought through the first 32 minutes we did a good job playing balanced inside and out.”
Nevada featured balanced scoring with five players in double figures while shooting 50% from the field.
They were paced by Cambridge Jr.’s 22 points, including 4-for-9 from beyond the arc to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
“Honestly it was a surreal experience being in front of fans again. I play for the fans, and I was really feeling it,” said Cambridge.
Senior forward AJ Bramah, who joined the Wolf Pack last year from Robert Morris, got the attention of coach Alford with his 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting and nine rebounds in 23 minutes of floor time.
“AJ will continue to emerge and add minutes off our bench,” said Alford.
After Eastern Washington scored the first basket of the game, Nevada (1-0, 0-0 MW) took control and led for all but 1:41 of the action.
The Eagles proved scrappy, keeping the contest close and briefly taking a 26-25 lead on forward Linton Acliese’s layup, which capped an 8-0 run with 4:20 remaining in the first half. Acliese would lead Eastern Washington with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Sherfield’s 3-pointer 16 seconds later seemed to awaken the Pack from their early jitters as they pushed the lead to 43-34 at the break. The 2020 All Mountain West junior guard led the Pack playing 33 minutes and dishing out a team-high nine assists.
Nevada pushed the lead to as much as 19 in the second half at 85-66 with 3:09 remaining, and then cruised the rest of the way.
Next up for the Wolf Pack: University of San Diego, Friday at 7 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center.
- Head Coach Steve Alford is 3-0 in openers at Nevada.
- Center Will Baker, a seven-foot junior transfer from Iowa State, scored the last five points of the first half for Nevada including a 3-pointer from above the circle while playing 30 minutes and registering 13 points and four rebounds.
- Nevada led in blocked shots 7-1. Seven-foot wing Warren Washington established a career high with four.
- The Wolf Pack committed 12 team fouls for the game, and only seven through the first 31 minutes.
- Nevada finished with 25 assists against nine turnovers.
Michael Smyth is a writer and photographer who moved to Reno from the Bay Area in 2007. Michael retired from a corporate road-warrior sales career in 2017 where he wrote freelance small-venue music reviews on the side to keep his sanity on the road. When he isn’t covering a concert or sporting event he might be found concocting a salsa recipe, throwing barbless flies in search of trout, or recapturing the skip-and-stop wedge shot of his youth.