RENO - No doubt Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox emphasized defense when he re-convened his team for practice following Thursday's victory over Idaho.
Fox was unhappy with the Vandals' ability to get to the basket on a regular basis, and he knows that the Pack will have to do a much better job defensively if it expects to knock off high-scoring Boise State Saturday (7 p.m., 630AM) at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada (10-6, 2-1) has won 31 of its last 33 games at home, but the Broncos (12-5, 3-2) have been one of the top road teams with a 6-2 record away from Taco Bell Arena this season.
Boise State, led by Reggie Larry (19.1), Matt Nelson (16.2), Tyler Tiedeman (12.5) and Matt Bauscher (9.3) is averaging 81.6 a game. The Broncos are a tough team to defend because of their effectiveness inside and outside.
Fox said the Broncos' experience is a real factor, too.
"They start four seniors," Fox said, referring to Larry, Nelson, Tiedeman and Bauscher. "They have terrific interior play. Both kids are exceptional. They have great 3-point shooting around them.
"They are extremely proficient defensively. We have to play better defense."
Both Bauscher and Tiedeman shoot better than 43 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Their roles have expanded this year with the graduation of Coby Karl and Eric Lane, and they no doubt benefit from some of the extra attention that teams have to pay both Nelson and Larry on the interior.
"They are fourth-year seniors," BSU coach Greg Graham said, referring to Bauscher and Tiedeman. "That's why we got off to a slow start. They were a little slow adjusting to leadership roles. They've gotten more confident and are doing a good job.
"They (Nelson and Larry) are always big factors every game. They are the leading scorers and leading rebounders."
It's probably even more critical for the 6-7 Larry and the 6-9 Nelson to be effective because they both give up length to Nevada's trio of 7-foot JaVale McGee, 6-9 Demarshay Johnson and 7-foot David Ellis, all of whom can influence shots.
Graham is looking for more consistent play from point guard Anthony Thomas, who is averaging eight points and four assists a game. The sophomore is the youngest starter and has the toughest job on the floor.
"He's been up and down a little bit," Graham said.
Graham said defending Nevada is still tough this year despite the loss of Nick Fazekas, Kyle Shiloh, Ramon Sessions and Dennis Ikovlev.
"They lost two players to the NBA and a lot of experience," Graham said. "Mark (Fox) has got that thing going. The team is a lot younger and I think they are going to get better as the season goes along."
Graham points out that Nevada still has two NBA caliber players in sixth-year senior Marcelus Kemp and McGee. Graham believes that McGee will be drafted higher than any WAC player by the time he leaves Nevada.
Both Fox and Graham have the same philosophy on what it takes to win - rebounding and defense.
"We have to make our shots," Graham said. "We're a transition team. We like to get out and run. If you don't make your shots, you are going to be playing defense all the time."