Pack faces challenge at Utah State

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

LOGAN, Utah - When you talk about difficult places to play in college basketball, many great places come to mind.

There's Cameron Indoor, the homecourt of the Duke Blue Devils, Phog Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks, and the Dog Pound at Gonzaga.

Knowledgeable basketball fans should certainly have Utah State's Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on that list, especially since Stew Morrill took over the Aggies' program 10 years ago. The Aggies are 12-0 at home this season and 137-12 under Morrill, and Nevada pinned one of those losses on them, a 75-57 triumph during the 2005-06 season.

Obviously Nevada (13-7, 5-2) hopes to change that when it visits Utah State (15-6, 5-1) tonight at 6. The game will be televised locally on KAME-TV.

"They are a great team," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "Logan is a difficult place to play. The home fans are very supportive.

"They have two seniors in the backcourt (Kris Clark and Jaycee Carroll) who are both terrific players. Obviously, Jaycee was named the Preseason Player of the Year."

Quite simply, Carroll can shoot it. He drains 92 percent of his foul shots and 51.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. He leads the WAC in scoring at 21.1 per contest.

Brandon Fields and Lyndale Burleson will be the main guys chasing Carroll around the floor. For the past three years, Carroll has struggled at times against Nevada because of the fine defense by ex-Pack star Kyle Shiloh. Carroll said earlier this season that it would be a "breath of fresh air" not to have Shiloh hounding him.

A big key to the Aggies' success, however, has been the emergence of JC transfer Gary Wilkinson and redshirt freshman Tai Wesley.

"We had to have people step up," said Morrill, who only had three players ever check into a game at USU. "Gary Wilkinson (12.6 ppg) has done a real good job. He's a very good offensive shooter. He can score. Wesley (9.4 ppg) was coming off his mission. I knew he was a good player coming out of high school. He's done a good job. I can't say it's a surprise (their play)."

Morrill said the biggest adjustment after a mission is that it takes players six or seven months to truly get their legs under them. He said he was concerned about Wesley's weight, but his freshman forward came back in good shape.

The veteran coach knows he is facing a red-hot team. Nevada has won three straight and five of its last six, and Marcelus Kemp is coming off one of his best games of the season. Kemp scored 28 points in 21 minutes against Fresno State in a 79-67 win on Thursday.

"Obviously, you want to protect your home floor," Morrill said. "If you don't, you have to find an extra win on the road. Look at Nevada. They lost a tough one to Boise State and played a great game at New Mexico State. They made up ground quickly.

"He (Marcelus) likes to play in the Spectrum. He has lit us up in this place. He's hard to guard. He's a great shooter and he can jump over you.

"They shot lights out at New Mexico State. They matched up pretty well and were able to line up and play that game. We weren't able to do that."

Kemp has scored 51 points in his last two games at the Spectrum, knocking down 19 of 33 shots from the field.

Fox has been pleased with the maturity and intelligence his team is showing at the offensive end. Besides Kemp at 19.4, the Pack has McGee at 12.7, Fields is at 12.5 and Armon Johnson is at 12.3.

"He gets in the lane so well," Morrill said of Johnson. "He's left-handed, and that's always a bit of an advantage because you don't play against that many. He's a good-looking young player."

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

Men's basketball:

NEVADA (13-7, 5-2) AT UTAH STATE (15-6, 5-1)

When: Today, 6:05 p.m.

Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, Utah

TV/Radio: KAME/630AM, pre-gme starts at 5:35 p.m.

Coaches: Nevada's Mark Fox (94-25) is in his 4th season; Utah State's Stew Morrill (228-81) is in his 10th season

Projected starters: Nevada - F Demarshay Johnson (7.3, 4.7); C JaVale McGee (12.6, 7.6); G Marcelus Kemp (19.4, 5.6), Armon Johnson (12.3, 4.2), Brandon Fields 12.5, 2.5). Utah State - G Kris Clark (5.0, 1.4), Jaycee Carroll (21.1, 5.9), Tyler Newbold (4.2, 2.5); F Tai Wesley (9.4, 3.9), Gary Wilkinson (12.6, 6.2)

The pick: Nevada by 1

- Compiled by Darrell Moody

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