Wolf pack men set to take on Rice

By DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal News Service

One game at a time. One possession at a time.

It's something that University of Nevada basketball coach Trent Johnson has stressed throughout the season, and the Wolf Pack players are finally embracing that viewpoint.

"I don't worry if we've won eight in a row (actually Nevada has won seven of its last eight) or two in a row," said Johnson, whose team visits Rice tonight (5:05 p.m., 630 AM) in an important Western Athletic Conference basketball game. "We're still chasing. We're still far from our goal. I take it one game at a time, and I've always been like that.

"I'm pretty sure Rice will be angry about what happened here (101-76 loss). We need to get our guys rested as much as we can."

Nevada enters the game 10-4 in the WAC and 16-7 overall. Rice is 8-5 in league and 16-8 overall. Hawaii leads the league at 9-3. The Rainbows come to Lawlor on March 4, and it's a game that certainly could decide the regular-season championship.

The Owls are led by 6-6 forward Michael Harris , who averages 18 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. He also shoots 63 percent from the floor, and will be a handful for either Garry Hill-Thomas or Kevinn Pinkney defensively. Jason McKrieth, a 6-4 guard, averages 15.5 points, 2.55 assists and 1.82 steals per contest. Guard Rashid Smith averages five assists per game.

"They're a great team," Hill-Thomas said. "After the game they played here, they're going to come out 10 times harder. I don't think anybody is going to overlook anybody the rest of the way."

Nevada is 3-4 on the road, including a 2-1 mark on a recent week-long road trip to Tulsa, SMU and Louisiana Tech. Hopefully the Wolf Pack have put their road woes behind them. With only road games left against Rice and Fresno State, the Pack need to win at least one and run the table at home to get to the 19-win mark.

"It's big," guard Todd Okeson said. "We have to come out and play like we do at home. It's going to be a good game. I know that."

And, it all comes down to defense, according to Hill-Thomas. The Pack give up seven more points per game on the road than they do at Lawlor Events Center, and that has to change.

After the recent win over UTEP, Hill-Thomas said that the team is slowly understanding that defense wins games in the league and that Rice presents a big problem defensively because of its athleticism.

Notes: The Wolf Pack are 15-0 when leading at the half. Conversely they are 0-7 when trailing at the half ... The Wolf Pack host Toledo Saturday at 6:05 p.m. in the ESPN Bracket Buster. The event has been expanded from 18 to 46 teams, and all the teams are in the mid-major conferences. Thirteen teams come from the Mid-American Conference and 10 from the Missouri Valley Conference. Besides Nevada, Hawaii, Tulsa, Fresno State and Rice are representing the WAC.

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