Nevada to take on Fresno State

Nevada's Jordan Caroline (24) backs away as Washington's Markelle Fultz tries to drive past Sunday, Dec. 11, in Seattle.

Nevada's Jordan Caroline (24) backs away as Washington's Markelle Fultz tries to drive past Sunday, Dec. 11, in Seattle.

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Teams often reflect the personalty of their head coaches, and that’s definitely the case today when red-hot Nevada (12-2, 1-0) visits Fresno State (8-5, 0-1) today in a Mountain West game.

Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. (ESPN3 and 94.3 FM) at the SaveMart Center.

Fresno State’s Rodney Terry and Nevada’s Eric Musselman are fiery and hard-nosed, and teach a physical brand of basketball.

“Fresno State plays really hard, and they’re athletic and really long,” said Musselman, whose team has won seven straight games. “They have a couple of guys who can really shoot the basketball (Jaron Hopkins and Jahmel Taylor), and their whole front line returns. Defensively, they do a good job of creating turnovers and jumping into the passing lanes.

“(Paul) Watson has been around for four years; he’s not a young guy. Johhny McWilliams is really talented (off the bench) and so is (Terrell) Carter. Hopkins is a great rebounder at the point guard spot, and he has great size (6-5).“

Fresno State forces a conference-leading 14 turnovers a game. Nevada turns it over 11.6 times a contest.

Nevada, despite playing with a short bench from the outset, has shown its grittiness throughout the season. Nevada is 4-1 in games decided by five points or less, the only blemish coming in a 75-73 loss to Iona at the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 26.

The Pack is playing hard, and despite its short bench, is holding its own. Nevada held San Jose State to 29 percent from the floor in Wednesday’s 80-55 win. The Pack gave up just 19 field goals in that one.

Terry, Fresno State’s sixth-year head coach, said defense is a key today.

“Transition is going to be really big in this game,” he said. “This is a really high scoring team. We have a lot of respect for them and for what they do with their program. Our shooter defense is going to have to be really big to defend their shooters. They have guys that can shoot the basketball.”

“They won the CBI last year, and they have a lot of carryover from that. Obviously they have Marshall who can shoot the ball. They also have (Jordan) Caroline as a dual threat that has added another dimension to their team. I think he plays a very physical game and has a lot of energy.”

The Pack enters the game even more short-handed than it has played all season. The Pack is down to seven scholarship players after freshman Josh Hall suffered a concussion.

Hall was going for a dunk with 1:47 left in the first half of the game against San Jose State when he was fouled hard by Brandon Mitchell. Musselman said it was uncertain when Hall would return.

“I think he needs 48 hours before they re-do the testing,” Musselman said. “His shoulder is very sore and his jaw is wired shut. He can’t eat, he can only have soup. The shoulder (issue) came up last night. We have to see how much weight he loses from not being able to eat.”

Musselman said he didn’t know who would take Hall’s spot in the starting line-up.

Musselman told media on Friday before the team hopped on the charter bus for the 6-hour trip to the San Joaquin Valley he hadn’t made a decision.

“We have had different bodies out there,” Musselman said. “Today (Friday) was a little different than yesterday (Thursday) when we went bigger. Today, we went more traditional. We’ll meet as a staff (to discuss) and meet with the players to see what group they feel comfortable with.”

No matter what the final decision is, the Pack needs good play from Leland King, who’s coming off a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) against San Jose State.

“We need Leland to play well,” Musselman said. “We need him to be a low-post scorer. Early in the year, he relied too much on the 3-ball, and as a staff we allowed that to happen.

“He has a nice mid-range shot, and that should help set up the 3-point shot. We still want him to do that (shoot the 3). Last year he was one of our best 3-point shooters in practice (King red-shirted last year).”


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