LaGrone shines for Nevada
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Matt LaGrone’s scrappy play and work ethic has earned him starts in Nevada the last two games, and he’s made that decision look great.
LaGrone went 6-for-7 from the floor for a career-best 12 points to spark Nevada to a 76-62 nonconference win over San Diego Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center.
LaGrone also pulled down four rebounds, dished out three assists and turned the ball over once in a record-setting 24-minute stint.
“I am getting a lot more comfortable and becoming more confident in myself,” LaGrone said. “I try to bring energy to the floor and play defense; get everyone going and hyped to do that.”
Probably his best play was when he leaped over the baseline to save a ball, leading to a 3-pointer by Marcelus Kemp late in the first half.
“Any time I can make a good play, it gives you more energy and the team more energy,” LaGrone said. “I can feed off everyone.”
His improvement is easy to see.
“He’s gotten better every week he’s been here,” Fox said. “He’s practiced very well. He’s more and more confident, and now he’s starting to finish plays. He looked like Magic Johnson (on one play).”
LaGrone said it makes no matter to him whether he keeps starting or comes off the bench. He said his energy level is the same.
USD’s Bill Grier said he wasn’t surprised by LaGrone’s performance.
“Of all their big guys, he posts (up) the hardest,” Grier said. “We just didn’t do a good job on him.”
There was a tense moment early in the second half when freshman Armon Johnson went high in the air to tip away a pass and landed on his hip/back. He stayed down on the floor for approximately a minute before leaving the floor under his own power.
Johnson did return to the floor later in the half.
Fox was asked twice if his young freshman was OK, and he responded in the positive.
Brandon Fields finished with a career-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers, all in the first half.
Unofficially, he is 11-for-22 from beyond the arc in his last four games, and showing extreme confidence shooting the ball.
“Brandon is maturing as a player,” Fox said. “He’s starting to show experience, and it’s really important for him to mature.
“He’s worked hard on his shooting, so it’s no surprise that he’s been shooting well.”
COOKE PLAYS WELL
Freshman forward Malik Cooke is starting to settle in.
The 6-foot-5 former North Carolina prep star scored a career-best seven points in just 14 minutes of play, including his first 3-pointer of the season.
The 3-pointer came with a lot of coaxing from the crowd, which kept urging him to shoot. As the shot went in, Fox kind of buried his face into his hands. Obviously he wanted Cooke to throw up the shot sooner.
KEMP THE PASSER
Marcelus Kemp (11 points) only put up nine shots, but made several nice passes en route to a five-assist performance, several coming when he was playing point guard.
It certainly will be a good thing if Kemp doesn’t have to play his best each game for Nevada to win.
“It’s not me, it’s a team,” said Kemp, who now has scored in double digits in all eight Nevada games thus far and 70 times in his career.
NO COOLING OFF
Nevada waived the customary 10-minute cooling off period and brought the players into the interview room just a few minutes after the game ended.
Team spokesperson Rhonda Lundin explained that a few players had finals starting at 7:30 this morning, and either wanted to get to bed early or do some last-minute cramming.
“This is not a great week for us,” said Fox, who gave the players today off. “We’re trying to play as many games as we can and we’ve got finals this week.”
FREE THROW WOES
Nevada struggled at the line, going 13 for 22. Conversely, San Diego was 22 for 26.
Fox said he wasn’t worried, and blamed most of it on lack of concentration.