Forget Thursday's loss to Tulsa University, that really wasn't a game the Nevada men's basketball game should have expected to win. But tonight's game against Rice should be. The Owls are coming off a 87-61 loss to Fresno State on Thursday night, their 11th straight regular season road loss, dating back to last season.
Not only that, the Wolf Pack are 5-1 at home this season and to drop two straight would be disastrous, especially against one of the Western Athletic Conference's worst teams. Nevada is 4-1 coming off losses this season.
"If we win, we're 2-2 (WAC play), so that's what we're going to try and do," said Nevada guard Terrance Green.
Sitting at 2-2 doesn't sound all that great. Remember, however, that the Wolf Pack went just 3-13 in the WAC last season, their first year in the league after moving over from the Big West Conference. Besides, Nevada (8-5 overall, 1-2 WAC) needs this one. After tonight's 7:05 p.m. game at the Lawlor Events Center, it plays Fresno State, then has road games against UTEP and Boise State. The Wolf Pack are 1-4 in their last five road games.
Rice (5-6, 0-1) has had success against Nevada. Last season, the Owls won two of three against the Wolf Pack, including a season-ending 60-44 triumph in the first round of the WAC Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
"These guys beat us twice last year, so we really want this one," said forward Corey Jackson, who's coming off a career-high 23 point performance against the Golden Hurricane.
One player that needs to bounce back from quiet game against Tulsa is Garry Hill-Thomas, who leads the Wolf Pack in scoring. Hill-Thomas scored only eight points before fouling out. Green also has some extra motivation for this game. He struggled in all three games against Rice last season. Green, a 6-foot-2 junior from Portland, Ore., shot just 3-of-13 last season against the Owls, scoring 10 points.
"Personally, I haven't played well against them," Green said. "So I'm looking forward to it (tonight's game)."
Two of Rice's top three scorers are freshman in Jason McKrieth (14.9 ppg) and Michael Harris (11.7 ppg). Harris is also the WAC's second-leading rebounder behind Jackson (10.9). The Owls have lost all five road games this season by an average of 13.6 ppg, including Thursday night's 26-point drubbing by the Bulldogs in Fresno, Calif.
Rice led 16-15 early on, but Fresno State went on a 32-11 run to go up 47-27 at halftime. The Bulldogs led by as many as 33 before a late Owl run provided the final scoring margin.
So this becomes a very winnable came for Nevada. Rice's five wins this season came against Navy, Lamar, Baylor, Centenary, and Siena. One of its losses was to lowly Texas Pan-American, which came at home, no less. The Owls finished 14-16 last season.