Wolf Pack confident despite 2-3 start
Special to the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball just might be the most confident 2-3 team in the nation.
“We’re at a good place right now,” senior Brandon Fields said. “We’re humble and hungry. Maybe being 2-3 is better than being 5-0. If we were 5-0 we might not be as humble as we are now. And if we weren’t as humble we might not be as hungry as we are.”
Never let it be said that this Wolf Pack team looks at its glass as half empty. The Pack, which will play the Pacific Tigers (5-1) in Stockton, Calif., Saturday night (Channel 21, 630-AM, 7 p.m.) is definitely a bunch of positive thinkers.
“I don’t like our record but I do like where we’re at right now,” head coach David Carter said.
Much of the Wolf Pack’s confidence comes from a highly-competitive 80-73 loss at North Carolina last Sunday afternoon.
“Most teams don’t go there and play them that close,” Fields said.
“We’re disappointed that we are 2-3 right now, to be honest,” sophomore Luke Babbitt said. “But, on the other hand, we haven’t played terrible in any game. We’ve played a lot of good teams, especially on the road. It’s not a good feeling to be 2-3 but we know we can improve upon that.”
“We’re not as good as we know we can be right now. But that’s a good thing. We don’t want to be at our best at this point in the season. We always want to keep improving.”
All of the Pack’s troubles this year have come away from home. The Pack is 2-0 at home and will bring an 0-3 record on the road to Stockton’s Alex Spanos Center, where Pacific is 3-0 this year. All three of the Pack’s losses on the road were by similar scores: 88-75 at UNLV, 85-76 at Virginia Commonwealth and 80-73 at Chapel Hill, N.C.
“We’ve played a real tough road schedule,” Babbitt said. “That’s why this game is big for us. We want to get as many road wins as we can get because we know it’s going to be tough to win on the road in the (Western Athletic Conference).”
The Wolf Pack, which will return to Lawlor on Dec. 8 against Fresno Pacific, was 8-5 on the road a year ago and was 52-26 in five seasons away from Lawlor Events Center under head coach Mark Fox.
“We were a good road team last year,” said Babbitt, who leads the Pack in scoring (19.2) and rebounding (10.8). “That’s something we’re not too worried about.”
Well, it is something Carter would like to disappear from his list of concerns as quickly as possible.
“I think it is an important game,” said senior Ray Kraemer of Saturday’s game at Pacific. “Getting that first road win would get a lot of weight off our shoulders.”
The Wolf Pack has lost two games in a row at Pacific, including last season at home (67-59). The Pack has also lost 15 of its last 16 games against Pacific in Stockton, dating back to a 69-58 loss on Dec. 5, 1956 under head coach Jake Lawlor. Fox is the only Pack head coach to win in Stockton during that 53-year stretch (77-70 on Dec. 3, 2005).
“We have to learn how to win on the road,” said senior Joey Shaw, who is averaging 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds this year.
Carter, a Wolf Pack assistant for 10 seasons under head coaches Fox and Trent Johnson, clearly knows the importance of winning on the road.
“It would be a huge win for us, especially for our confidence,” Carter said. “We’ve played well and we have competed on the road but until you win, it’s a hurdle you need to get over. The first one is always huge.”
The Wolf Pack averages 82.2 points a game while Pacific averages 67.2 points a game. The Pack, though, has allowed 82.6 points a game while Pacific has allowed 59.3 points a game. Opponents are shooting 46 percent against the Pack while Pacific’s opponents are shooting just 39 percent.
“They are a lot like Utah State,” Carter said. “They run their system very well and they don’t make mistakes. You have to go out and beat them because they aren’t going to beat themselves.”
The Wolf Pack just wants to continue what it started at North Carolina.
“That game has given us a lot of confidence, knowing that we can play with anybody,” said Kraemer, who is averaging 7.4 points off the bench.
“After the North Carolina game Coach Carter told us, ‘That’s how you have to go out and play every single night,'” Shaw said. ‘”That’s how you are supposed to play no matter who you are playing.'”
• Joe Santoro’s blog, Daily Fodder, appears on nevadaappeal.com/blogs.