MILWAUKEE – Nevada redshirt Hallice Cooke knows Nevada and Iowa State.
Cooke, who started his college career at Oregon State, played the 2015-16 season at Iowa State, where he averaged 2.6 points per game and reached double-figures four times.
Cooke transferred to Nevada and is sitting out the season as per NCAA rules. He was acting as a student assistant coach after a heart issue sidelined him. He has since been cleared to play, and has been practicing daily with the team.
“Hallice has gone through a lot,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “He made the decision to come to Nevada, and then there was the, you know, the heart situation and through further tests, he’s playing and practicing.
“I think next year he’s going to have a really big impact with us. We’re so happy for him and his family that he’s been cleared to play.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Iowa State has three players making their fourth NCAA appearance.
In the history of Nevada basketball, only 6-11 Nick Fazekas played in four straight NCAA tourneys (2004-2007). Three players – current NBA player Ramon Sessions, Kyle Shiloh and Marcelus Kemp – all played in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In the Trent Johnson-Mark Fox era, when Nevada made four straight NCAA tourneys, the lower the seed the better Nevada did.
In 2004 when Nevada was a Sweet 16 participant, the Pack knocked off Michigan State and Gonzaga before falling to Georgia Tech in the third round. Nevada went 1-1 as a No. 9 seed in 2005, beating Texas and losing to Illinois. As a No. 7 seed in 2007, Nevada beat Creighton in overtime and lost to Memphis. As a No. 5 seed, Nevada was upset by Montana in the opening round.
LONGEST WIN STREAK
Vermont, seeded 13th, rolls into the NCAA tourney against No. 4 Purdue today, with a 21-game win streak and a 29-5 record under coach John Becker.
The Catamounts, who are 0-4 all-time against Nevada, won their sixth American East championship after winning the regular season. Vermont was the only team in America East history to record a perfect 16-0 league record.
“We avoided complacency, knowing we had set little goals and we reached one and there was another goal right after,” Trae Bell-Haynes said. “One of the first (goals) was to steal as many games on the road as we could. We beat Albany at Albany and Stony Brook at Stony Brook.
“We have a chance to go 16-0. Try that. Clinch homecourt advantage. When we got to the playoffs, play 120 minutes of the hardest and best basketball. Now, where we’re at, we’ve got 40 minutes and a completely new season.”
Becker feels his club is a better team than the one that played Purdue last season (and lost).
“Yeah, we’re a much better defensive team, have more depth up front and we’ve done a better job of guarding the 3-ball. That will be a big deal.”
In the game last year, Purdue scored 107 points, 54 of them coming on 18 3-point field goals.
Richard Pitino has led Minnesota into the NCAA tourney this year, and he was named Big 10 Coach of the Year in the process.
Pitino led the Golden Gophers to an 11-7 record in league and 24-9 overall. This is his first NCAA tourney as a head coach. The Gophers take on Middle Tennessee in a 5-12 battle in a South regional match-up in Milwaukee. “I think more than anything, I mean, appreciate it , you know, embrace it,” he said when asked what he learned under his dad, Rick, and former Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “It’s an awesome opportunity, but don’t make it bigger than it needs to be.
“The game is what really matters. Obviously it’s my job to prepare these guys to the best of their ability. My dad and Billy used to get looser as the tournament got closer. For me, it’s probably making sure my players know that I’m confident in the game plan.”
SCHEDULE IN MILWAUKEE
Butler and Winthrop kick off the action today at 10:30 a.m. followed by Minnesota and Middle Tennessee at approximately 1 p.m. Both games are in the South region.
Purdue faces Vermont at 4:27 p.m. and then it’s the Wolf Pack in the last game of the night.