STOCKTON, Calif. - Mo Charlo came to Nevada with a lot of fanfare, and slowly, he is starting to live up to the expectations.
Charlo has been rock solid through the first four games of the season, averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds for the undefeated and 20th-ranked Wolf Pack, who visit Pacific (4-2) tonight (7:05 p.m.) at the Spanos Center.
The 6-7 junior forward had a huge game against Vermont, scoring 13 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds. A few days later, he scored 18 points against arch-rival UNLV, carrying the team in the early going.
However, the coup de grace came Thursday night when he knocked down seven clutch free throws in the final four minutes to help Nevada, 4-0, to a 72-70 upset of Kansas on the Jayhawks' home floor, a place where they had only lost eight times in the previous 151 games.
The days of up-and-down scoring appear to be over. So to are the careless mistakes Charlo was prone to make last season, his first in the Nevada program.
"I'm comfortable in the system," Charlo said. "Last year I really didn't know what to expect. I was up and down. The second half of the season I think I settled down and let the game come to me. I rushed things way too much and wasn't consistent.
"We have a system and you have to play within the system. They sat me at times. I was able to see some of the things I was doing wrong. It definitely helped."
And, much of his problems centered around trying to be the guy who replaced Kirk Snyder, who turned pro after leading Nevada to the Sweet 16 his junior year.
"He was a helluva player," Charlo said. "He did a lot for Nevada. I thought I needed to live up to him. I think subconciously that forced me to press a little bit more. I tried to live up to the hype.
"That wasn't working. The coaches were telling me to be myself, and that's what I finally did."
When Charlo is himself, you see a guy that likes to soar for rattling slam dunks, runs the floor like a gazelle and occasionally drops in outside shots. He's a slasher, and has the ability to slither through the smallest of openings and get to the basket.
It led the way to nice offensive outings at Fresno State (18 points in 26 minutes) and two nice games against UTEP (33 points on 10 for 22 shooting), and at the NCAA Tournament where he scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in the win over Texas and scored 12 in the second-round loss to Illinois.
All told, Charlo scored in double figures eight times in the final 12 games, averaging nearly 12 points a game over the span. It helped bring his scoring average up to a respectable 9.4 for the season.
Yes, Charlo's scoring is up this year, and he's doing it within coach Mark Fox's system. The second-year head coach certainly sees the difference.
"He's working hard to become a complete player," Fox said. "He's more mature and working hard to do some of the little things that you won't see in the boxscore (defense and passing). I want everybody on this team to be a complete player."
"He's become more of a complete player," teammate Nick Fazekas said. "He's doing a lot of different things for us this year that he didn't consistently do last year. He's shooting the ball better and playing better defense."
Charlo has worked hard at his outside shooting, especially from beyond the 3-point arc. With Fazekas inside, the perimeter players will get a lot more open looks. A year ago, Charlo shot 41 percent overall, but only 28 percent on 3-pointers.
"I've worked hard with coach (Dedrique) Taylor and coach (David) Carter," Charlo said. "My numbers weren't great. It had to do with my feet. I was not getting my feet squared up. When I do, I can hit that shot."
The completeness of Charlo's game has been his willingness to distribute the ball, and he's made some unbelievable passes. He leads the team with 13 assists, and several of those have been of the Jason Kidd variety.
And, when his offensive game is lacking which it was against Kansas for the first 30 minutes, he'll find other ways to help out. He played solid defense against Brandon Rush, especially in the first half, and he showed great poise when he hit crucial free throws.
"The shot wasn't falling," he said. "When that happens you have to concentrate on other things, so that's what I did."
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
NEVADA (4-0) at UOP (4-2)
When: Tonight, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Spanos Center
TV: KREN (Rich Cellini and Dave Bollwinkel)
Radio: ESPN Radio 630 AM
Coaches: Mark Fox (Nevada) is 29-7 in his 2nd year; Bob Thomason (UOP) is 293-217 in his 18th season
Probable starters: Nevada - F Nick Fazekas and Mo Charlo; C Chad Bell; G Kyle Shiloh and Ramon Sessions. UOP - F Christian Maraker and Joe Ford; C Michael White; G Johnny Gray and Mike Webb