Nevada men’s basketball team not looking past Utah State
NEVADA (18-4, 7-2) AT UTAH STATE (9-11, 3-6)
When: Today, 6 p.m.
Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,220)
TV-Radio: ESPN3/94.3 FM
Nevada: F - Cameron Oliver (14.9, 8.0) and Jordan Caroline (14.1, 9.3). G - Marcus Marshall (21.1, 2.5), Lindsey Drew (6.4, 4.9) and D.J. Fenner (13.7, 3.5)
Utah State: F - Jalen Moore (16.9, 5.1) and Alexis Dargenton (4.8, 4.8); C - Norbert Janicek (6.9, 3.0); G - Koby McEwen (15.0, 5.1) and Sam Merrill (8.1, 2.5).
Utah State has experienced an up and down 2016-17 season, but Nevada coach Eric Musselman said the Aggies aren’t to be overlooked despite their 9-10 record.
And with good reason.
Utah State accomplished something Nevada has not this year: Beat Fresno State. The Aggies, who entertain Nevada (17-4, 7-2) tonight at 6 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, are coming off a 13-point win over the Bulldogs. Fresno State handed Nevada both of its conference losses.
“I know they are really good,” Musselman said during his weekly press conference Monday at Lawlor Events Center. “They have a lot of talent, including a freshman (Koby McEwen) playing as well as anybody in the western United States. Jalen Moore is one of the most talented players in the conference, and at 6-9 he can play multiple positions.
“Shane Rector does a good job of getting into the lane and kicking the ball out for a 3-pointer. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Moore has scored in double figures 33 straight games, including 20 straight Mountain West Conference games. It is the seventh-longest streak in school history. Long and athletic, he is a tough match-up at both ends of the floor.
The Aggies’ biggest surprise might be McEwen, a 6-4 freshman guard, who is averaging 15 points and five rebounds a game along with nearly three assists per outing.
His numbers are the best at USU since All-American Jaycee Carroll averaged 14.7 and 4.3, respectively, in 2004-05 when the Aggies and Nevada were both in the Western Athletic Conference.
“He is so confident,” Musselman said. “His body; he has such great strength. He is like a Marqueze Coleman with a 3-point shot. He is strong and long.
Fresno State’s Jaron “Hopkins hurt us with his length and strength at that same position so we’re concerned with him for sure,” Musselman added.
Nevada is coming off perhaps its best two wins of the season, handing Boise State and New Mexico double-digit losses.
“We have to put those (wins) behind us and concentrate on how we can beat Utah State,” Musselman said.
And, when you play the Aggies you are playing in one of the toughest places anywhere.
The crowds this year are a little down, but Musselman attributes that to students being off campus for winter break.
“It is one of the most difficult places to play,” the Nevada coach said. “We are going to have to play a really good game to beat them.”
“I know San Diego State is very tough place to play,” forward Cam Oliver said. “Utah State is really tough place. The student section really gets on you. They know the whole roster, and we can’t let that distract us.”
Utah State coach Tim Duryea, who replaced the legendary Stew Morrill two years ago, knows his team will have its hands full.
“I’m really impressed with Nevada,” Duryea said. “When you watch them play, they are a very good, all-around team. Offensively they are scoring 82 points a game in league play, which leads the league. They have balance. They are very good on the boards. They can make 3s, can score it around the basket and can drive the ball. On the other side of the ball, their defensive percentages are tremendous. They are extremely good one-on-one defenders. What they do is not complicated, but each guy can handle his matchup night in and night out athletically. Cameron Oliver does a good job of protecting the rim and blocking shots. When you are holding people to 27 percent from 3 and 40 percent overall with your defense, that is a fantastic foundation from which to build your basketball team.
“We match up on the perimeter fairly well with Nevada. We’ve got some size there and can get that done. (Jordan) Caroline’s strength at the four is an issue. The toughest spot will be Oliver’s athleticism and mobility at the five. That will be a tough matchup for Norbie (Janicek), in terms of having to defend that kind of player that roams around the perimeter so much and is an active rebounder and live-bodied athlete. Norbie will have his hands full and will have to guard in some situations that he may not be comfortable with in terms of being so far away from the basket and guarding a guy that has that much mobility and runs the floor that well. We’ll have to see how that one goes and adjust accordingly.”
Oliver is coming off two phenomenal games. He scored 17 and pulled down 15 rebounds at Boise, and followed that up with a season-high 26 points against New Mexico.
“He’s a special talent,” Musselman said. “When he plays well we’re hard to beat. The two games we needed him to step up he did.”
“I have to play hard and play with a positive attitude,” Oliver said. “I have to keep playing basketball.”