RENO - Nevada finished its non-conference schedule with the same 7-3 record as it had a year ago, but Wolf Pack coach Mark Fox said this year's team isn't as far along as it prepares for tonight's WAC opener against San Jose State.
Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center.
"We're still putting things in (offensively and defensively)," Fox said before Tuesday's practice. "The hard part now is trying to get practice time. It's game on top of game. We've had some two-a-days since school has been out to get us ready as we can get.
"The kids are excited about league play. They'd rather play games than listen to me (at practice) all the time."
Fox said that the players were a little sluggish when they returned on Sunday from Christmas break, but had been performing better since then. Fox said trying to come back from three days off is "a bit much."
Fox is likely to go with the same lineup that started in the win at UC Davis on Dec. 22 - Nick Fazekas, Kevinn Pinkney, Kyle Shiloh, Ramon Sessions and Mo Charlo.
The Davis game was Charlo's first career start, and he responded with eight points on 3-for-8 shooting from the floor. Freshman David Ellis had started the two previous games for Jermaine Washington, and the 7-foot Ellis gave way to Charlo last week.
"I don't think I'll start our big lineup," Fox said. "I don't think they're playing well together. Kyle (Shiloh) is still playing pretty solid."
Nevada knocked off San Jose State 74-45 in both games last year, and it would be so easy for the Wolf Pack to be overconfident.
"You have to guard against overconfidence a little bit," Fox admitted. "The kids have memories. Last year we played against them (SJSU) with all the marbles (co-conference championship) on the line. We have to play well to win this year.
"(Marquin) Chandler is their go-to guy. He's having a great year. They have a big guy (6-10 Matt Misko) who can defend the post, which is something they didn't have last year. They have some athletic guys (on the wings). I think they are much improved."
The 6-7 Chandler is averaging 19.8, and according to Fox, can hurt people in many ways.
"He can score with his back to the basket and he can put the ball on the floor," Fox said. "He reminds me of Aaron Haynes of Boise State except that he's three inches taller. The kid (Chandler) is a hell of a player."
Fox didn't say who he would put on Chandler, but it most likely would be either be Pinkney or Charlo. Fox also said the match-up would depend on whom the Spartans start. Misko missed the Montana State game with the flu, forcing the Spartans to go with a three-guard lineup.
Nevada is coming off its best two defensive efforts of the season, and Fox hopes that trend continues against the 3-6 Spartans.
"I don't worry as much about the defense," Fox said. "You can lose some of your offensive execution (after a layoff)."
Notes: Sessions leads the WAC in assists, averaging 6.2 a game and he leads the nation's point guards in assists. He's a big reason why Nevada is 18th in assists in the country out of 326 teams... Washington has been effective coming off the bench in recent games, averaging 8.3 over the last three games compared to 7.1 as a starter in the first seven games... Pinkney is making his 61st career start, and he's coming off his eighth career double-double against UC Davis (18 points, 11 rebounds)... Fazekas' scoring average dipped below 20 a game after his 14-point effort against UC Davis. He's ranked 15th in the nation in scoring, has reached double figures in scoring in all 10 of Nevada's games and has led the team in scoring eight of the 10 contests... Hawaii comes to town Saturday night (9 p.m. tip). The late starting time is because ESPN2 is showing the game. It's the second ESPN2 appearance for Nevada.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.