Nevada hoops hosts Oregon State | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada hoops hosts Oregon State

BY DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” The one thing about six straight postseason appearances is that it can create unrealistic expectations.

And, based on Nevada coach Mark Fox’s comments on Friday afternoon, the fifth-year head coach senses that people might be expecting too much too soon from a team that is the youngest in his time with the Wolf Pack.

Nevada is 1-1 entering tonight’s home opener against Oregon State, 0-1, which is coached by Craig Robinson, who is President-elect Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

The game begins at 7:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 630 AM.

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Fox said that the poor shooting/offensive performances thus far stems from youth and the fact that Nevada is nowhere close to having its entire offense in.

“Offensively we’re not the same unit we’re going to be,” Fox said. “Offense is the last thing that comes around (with a young team). It’s our (third) game. There are going to be growing pains with this group. If they can learn from it, we can turn it into a positive.”

A reporter asked Fox about freshman Luke Babbitt, who suffered through a 1-for-9 effort from the floor, including a missed slam dunk, in Tuesday’s 65-51 loss to San Diego.

“He’s never had a night like that,” Fox said. “It’s a good experience (to learn from). I’m much more concerned about a sophomore that missed 13 shots than a freshman that missed eight.”

Fox was referring to starting point guard Armon Johnson, who suffered through a 3-for-16 performance, including 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. In two games, Johnson is only shooting 24 percent and not looking like the player that was named the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year by the conference coaches.

Both Lyndale Burleson and Malik Cooke, the only players allowed to talk to the media yesterday, are happy to be home.

“We’re really excited to play at home after being on the road so long,” Burleson said. “It’s exciting to see all the fans come and play in front of the people rooting for you.”

“It was a tough road trip,” said Cooke, who has been Nevada’s best player thus far. “Hopefully we’ll learn from our mistakes. Everybody is excited (about playing at home).”

This will be a different Oregon State team than the one Nevada defeated 75-47 at the start of the 2006-07 season. The only two recognizable names are Seth and Josh Tarver, who played in that contest and will start tonight.

Robinson, a former Princeton star and two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, has put in a variation of the Princeton offense which he learned under the legendary Pete Carril and later Bill Carmody.

The Beavers are expected to get the services of 6-foot-7 forward Omari Johnson, who suffered an ankle injury in practice and didn’t play in the Beavers’ season-opening loss to Howard. The Beavers are still without sophomore guard Calvin Haynes, who is ineligible.

Fox said it was hard to get a handle on Oregon State because of Johnson’s absence and that of Calvin Haynes, who played in all 31 of the Beavers’ games last year.

“We do the same thing no matter who is in the game,” Robinson said. “The kids have done a good job with what we’re trying to get them to do. This isn’t a difficult offense to learn. It depends on your basketball IQ.

“I don’t think basketball players find it hard. People on the outside have found it hard. The essence of the offense is giving yourself up for the open man however you do it; setting a screen, making the extra pass or making a hard cut.”

Simply put, it comes down to getting the best shot possible, and the quick movement off the ball can create open shots.

Robinson is a man on a mission.

Oregon State is getting the Beavers’ program back on the right track. OSU hasn’t had a winning season since 2004 under then third-year head coach Jay John. Since Ralph Miller’s departure after the 1988-89 season, the Beavers have had just two winning seasons, one .500 season and 16 losing seasons.

“It’s not getting it started, it’s getting it re-started,” Robinson said. “It’s tough when they haven’t won in a long time.”

NOTES: Fox said Brandon Fields, Ahyaro Phillips and London Giles, who on Oct. 15 were cited for petty larceny, are still suspended, and he didn’t give out any hints as to when or if the suspensions would end. Charges against Fields were subsequently dropped … Nevada has won its last five home openers, including last year’s 67-54 win over Santa Clara. Nevada hasn’t lost a home opener since the 2002-03 season … Nevada leads the WAC in free-throw shooting, hitting 77.3 percent … Nevada is averaging 6.0 blocks per game which is second in the WAC… Robinson said Obama did not attend his team’s game in Washington at Howard University, and doesn’t expect to hear much from his famous brother-in-law while he is putting his administration together.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281.

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