For Nevada, there’s no place like Kansas | NevadaAppeal.com

For Nevada, there’s no place like Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kansas – It’s been one year and one day since Kansas spanked Nevada by a whopping 33 points in front of a national television audience and 16,300 adoring fans.

It’s a game that Nevada coach Mark Fox remembers well.

“They just drilled us,” said Fox, whose 20th-ranked Wolf Pack (3-0) play the unranked Jayhawks (2-2) tonight at 6 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. “They absolutely killed us. Kansas was much better that night than we were. “We have to play well (to win tonight). It’s a different team for us and them. They probably have better talent than last year. It’s just inexperienced. They have great players.”

And, the Jayhawks have the advantage of playing Nevada for the second straight year at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are 151-8 at home over the last 11 years, and five of those years they went unbeaten at home.

Nevada has been a solid road team. The Pack enter the game with a 12-game road win streak, and are coming off a 68-61 victory at UNLV before a rowdy crowd.

Nick Fazekas, who struggled from the floor last year against the Jayhawks (5 for 18), said he’s been trying to tell the new players and remind the other players what it will be like tonight. He’s also expecting another physical effort defensively from KU.

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“I’ve tried to tell them,” Fazekas said. “They don’t know what loud is until they’ve been here. The place was loud. Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own.

“I expect them to do the same thing. I wouldn’t say they mugged me. They just got the best of me, and that was that.”

Fazekas has been bothered by food poisoning the last two games, but said he feels fine now. He is averaging 18 a game, second-best to Marcelus Kemp.

“We did a pretty good job on Nick last year, ” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I watched Nick play over the summer with USA Basketball. He’s really a good player. He’s a face-up guy with a good low-post game. We’re going to have to be very good defensively, or he’ll make our young guys look not very good. There is a certain way we’re going to have to defend him to slow him down.”

Knock him into the next county is probably a pretty good start, though Fazekas is improving at handling physical players. If Kansas stays with its normal starting lineup, Fazekas is likely to see 6-11 C.J. Giles or 6-11 Sasha Kaun, both sophomores, defending him. Another possibility is 6-8 Julian Wright, a true freshman.

Fazekas is probably first and foremost on the mind of Kansas defenders, but Self said the play of Marcelus Kemp makes the Pack pretty good.

“I think they are every bit as good as last year, and maybe better,” Self said. “They are better because of Marcelus Kemp. They lost some guys, but Kemp, who was hurt last year, is really good.”

Kemp, who has come off the bench in all three Pack games thus far, has scored 24 points in each of the last two games, and he’s averaging 21 for the season.

There is a good chance Kemp will see a lot of 6-6 freshman Brandon Rush, who leads Kansas in scoring at 15 a game.

“Brandon has done a good job against the other team’s top guys,” Self said. “Brandon has made great progress. He’s a much better defender than we thought he would be.”

Kemp’s output has surprised Fazekas.

“I didn’t expect him to do this well right away,” Fazekas said. “He really plays well in 1 on 1 situations. He’s doing it right now. If he expected this to happen, that’s a good thing.”

Nevada is the more veteran team this time around, as guys like Wayne Simien and Aaron Miles have moved on to NBA careers. Of Kansas’ 14-man roster, 11 players are either freshmen or sophomores, and they are talented.

Fox really likes Kaun (14.5, 9.3), Giles (10.5, 7.5) and guard Russell Robinson, who scored a career-high 13 points in the 85-52 whipping of Nevada last season. Robinson is averaging 7 points a game.

“They are very athletic,” Fox said. “They’re an excellent defensive team. I’m sure they’ll pressure us. We had 24 turnovers against UNLV. I’m sure they saw the stat sheet.”

Kansas’ inexperience and lack of consistency has Self concerned.

The Jayhawks have pounded two week teams (Idaho State and Chaminade), and lost to Arkansas and Arizona. They averaged only 57 points a game in the two defeats.

“Obviously we have a long way to go,” Self said at his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “We’re not where we thought we’d be at this stage. As a group, this is going to be a good team.

“In-game execution and getting the stop when we need to get a stop, and learning the value of certain possessions. Our energy level has been better at home than it has been away from home. It’s like that with every team, though.”

Notes: The Pack are averaging 39.7 rebounds a game, best in the WAC. They are outrebounding their opponents by 4.3 per game … Nevada has won its last 28 games when holding its opponent to 60 points or less, including 17 victories last year … Thanks to Kemp, Nevada’s bench is averaging 28.3 per game. .. The last time Kansas was 2-2 was in 2002-03, and the Jayhawks lost in the NCAA championship game … Kansas has outrebounded every opponent this year by a plus-8 margin … Kansas is 11-4 under Self following a loss … Despite its youth, Kansas was picked to finish third by the Big 12 coaches. Texas and Oklahoma were 1-2 … This is a homecoming for Fox, who grew up in Garden City. Fox also spent time at KU doing graduate work, and he watched former Kansas coach Roy Williams religiously.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281