Mountain West Notebook: ‘Bad loss’ puts pressure on Nevada Wolf Pack
NEVADA (11-3, 0-0) AT FRESNO STATE (10-3,0-0)
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: SaveMart Center (15,596)
TV/Radio: None/630 AM or 94.3 FM
Coaches: Eric Musselman is 63-24 in his 3rd season; Rodney Terry is 115-100 in his 7th season
Last meeting: Nevada 83, Fresno State 72 in 2016-17 MW semifinals
Projected starters: NEVADA — F Jordan Caroline (17.0, 9.1) and Josh Hall (6.6, 3.2); G Lindsey Drew (6.1, 3.1), Kendall Stephens (10.9, 0.5) and Cody Martin (13.7, 6.3); FRESNO STATE — C Bryson Williams (12.9, 7.2); F Ray Bowles (11.0, 3.8) and Sam Bittner (5.8, 3.1); G Jaron Hopkins (12.4, 5.4) or Jahmel Taylor (11.2, 3.9) and Deshon Taylor (18.6, 2.8).
News&Notes: Nevada, coming off a neutral-court loss to USF (66-64), is 10-8 in MW games on the road under Musselman ... Fresno State swept the regular-season series against the Pack last year, but Nevada won 83-72 in the MW Championship semifinals ... Caleb Martin is averaging 20.6 over his last three games since a 3-point effort against Radford. Stephens is averaging 15 a game since a 5-point effort against TCU. Caroline had his four-game streak of double-figure scoring after a 6-point effort against USF where he was a non-factor with 6 points and 4 rebounds in 34 minutes ... Hopkins has missed the last five games with an injury, but he has been practicing more this week ... This is the fourth time since 1980 that Fresno State has posted 10 nonconference wins ... Five of the last seven meetings between the schools have been decided by 5 points or fewer ... Deshon Taylor leads MW guards in scoring at 18.6, and he is No. 3 overall. He is third in the nation in free throws made with 86.
— By Darrell Moody
The margin for error in a mid-major conference like the Mountain West is slim as Nevada found out recently.
After being ranked No. 22 in the AP poll, Nevada lost back-to-back games to Texas Tech (road) and TCU (neutral) by a combined 10 points, and the Pack fell out of the top-25. And, after Saturday’s upset loss at the hands of San Francisco, the Pack, 11-3, is now tied for 38th with just 1 point. The USF loss is a “bad loss.”
When asked about how the loss may affect an at-large berth, Caleb Martin admitted it did a lot of damage. He said the team’s focus now must be winning the conference championship.
“It’s over,” Martin said. “It’s over. The at-large is over. We’re going to have to dig deep when we get in conference. That’s what I think. We’re not playing North Carolina. We’re not playing Duke. We’re not playing Top 25 teams every other night. We’re not doing that. We need every win that we can get.”
Martin and the Pack hope to start a new streak Wednesday at 7 at Fresno State (ESPN3).
BIG WIN FOR SDSU
The Aztecs posted maybe the conference’s best win when it knocked off Gonzaga, 72-70, last weekend. The Aztecs were coming off a 12-day layoff.
“I thought our kids showed great resolve coming off 12 days of practice without a game,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said. “It was good to see they were rewarded for all their hard work they put in that 12 days. We didn’t come out rusty (11-0 start). My concern was that we would come out rusty.
“Our kids played gritty. They played tough. We made it more of a half-court game. They rose to the occasion.”
Dutcher praised the play of Trey Kell and Devin Watson for their play in crunch time. Dutcher said he didn’t start Kell because he was worried about conditioning. Kell had missed time with thigh and ankle injuries.
The Aztecs are 6-2 in their last eight home games against Top-25 teams. This was Gonzaga’s first true road loss since Feb. 13, 2016 when the Zags lost to No. 16 SMU 69-60. The Zags had won 12 straight true road games.
UNLV STAR HONORED
Shakur Juiston, a JC transfer, has been named MW Player of the Week after leading UNLV to wins over Mississippi Valley State and Northern Colorado last week.
He averaged a double-double for the week (21 points and 11 rebounds per game). He shot 73 percent from the field
He averaged a double-double for the week with team highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, including a career-high 30 points and 12 boards against Northern Colorado.
Shakur is eighth in the country in rebounding at 10.9 a contest.
He’s the second UNLV player to be honored. Freshman Brandon McCoy has won the award twice.
One of the most lopsided MW/WAC matchups has been between Utah State and San Jose State.
The Aggies lead the series 59-21, and have won the last 20 in a row and 26 of the last 27. Utah State is 33-4 against the Spartans on its home floor.
FURSTINGER BREAKS OUT FOR LOBOS
Senior forward Joe Furstinger finished the non-conference schedule with back-to-back double-doubles, the first two of his career.
Furstinger, whose New Mexico team visits Lawlor Events Center on Saturday, scored 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against Rice, and followed that up with 20 and 10 against Prairie View A&M.
The Lobos are currently 5-8 heading into conference play.
A FIRST FOR FISHER
San Jose State’s Keith Fisher III collected his first collegiate double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds in a 75-63 victory against Santa Clara last week.
A MEMORABLE TRIP
Prior to its 111-68 win over Johnson & Wales, the Air Force Academy made a trip to New York and played in historic Madison Square Garden against Army (79-54 loss).
The Falcons’ traveling party paid a visit to the 9-11 Memorial.
Besides Nevada at Fresno, there are several other conference openers Wednesday.
San Diego State visits Wyoming, San Jose State visits Utah State, Colorado State is on the road at Boise State, and Air Force visits New Mexico.