Nevada basketball faces tough road trip | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada basketball faces tough road trip

Nevada’s undefeated basketball team left today for its first, and probably toughest, road trip of the season.

The 2-0 Wolf Pack, fresh off their Jim Thorpe Classic wins over University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Georgia State, plays at the University of Georgia Friday night (4:30 p.m.) and Kansas University (6 p.m.) on Nov. 29.

A road trip like this might be scary to many because of the Wolf Pack’s inexperience. Nevada has five players – Mo Charlo, Ramon Sessions, David Ellis, Chad Bell and Curry Lynch – who are playing their first year of basketball with the Wolf Pack.

“I wouldn’t say scary,” first-year head coach Mark Fox said. “We’re excited about it. It’s an experience we need to have. Our new guys have never been on the road; don’t have the first inclination of how to travel and how tiring it can be.”

Fox said he’s only seen tape on Georgia from last year, and that hasn’t been overly helpful because the Bulldogs have many new players. Of the 20 that could suit up this year, 12 were not on the team last year. Nine of those 12 were not even on campus.

Two of Georgia’s starters – forward Steve Newman (6-8, 230) and shooting guard Levi Stukes – were on the squad that went 16-14 in coach Dennis Felton’s first season at the helm.

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Newman averaged 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Stukes, who played in 27 games, averaged 30 minutes a contest. He averaged 9.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a game. More than half (45) of his 79 baskets last year came from beyond the three-point arc.

Stukes had a regular-season high of 18 against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and he drained eight threes in an SEC tourney win over Auburn.

“He (Stukes) is an excellent shooter; a terrific two guard,” Fox said. “I think he’s a great player.”

Newman and Stukes figure to be joined by true freshmen Dave Bliss (6-10, 240), Sundiata Gaines (6-1, 180) and Channing Toney (6-4, 195) in the starting lineup. The top two reserves are freshman Younes Idrissi (6-7, 200) and sophomore Buzz Wehunt (6-4, 185).

After two days off, the Wolf Pack will travel to Allen Fieldhouse to meet Kansas. The Wolf Pack shocked the basketball world last year with their 75-61 win over the Jayhawks at the Dodge Holiday Classic, and no doubt Kansas remembers that drubbing well.

“We can talk about their run in the NCAA Tournament, but what we remember is getting waxed in Reno,” KU coach Bill Self said after Tuesday night’s 91-51 win over Saint Joseph. “They had us down by 20 at the half and they ended up winning by about 10 points (actually 14). It was a pitiful performance by us, and at the time we didn’t know how good of a team they were.

“They were obviously really good. They basically have their whole front line back. It will be a good game. I hope our fans are juiced for that game because we definitely owe them one.”

The Jayhawks return six players with significant experience – 6-4 senior guard Keith Langford, 6-1 senior guard Aaron Miles, 6-5 sophomore forward J.R. Giddens, 6-9 forward-center Wayne Simien, 6-3 senior guard Michael Lee and 6-8 junior forward Christian Moody.

Simien scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 68-61 win over Vermont, a team the Wolf Pack beat handily last season.

The starting senior trio – Langford, Simien and Miles – has a 12-3 tourney record in NCAA play, gone to two Final Fours and an Elite 8, and has 87 wins.

“When you talk about the elite classes in Kansas history, this year’s seniors would rank among the best,” Self said in the team’s media guide. “When you talk about NCAA Tournament success, winning percentage and (conference) championships, Aaron, Keith and Wayne have contributed points, rebounds and assists in a way that few classes have.”

The veteran group is joined by five talented freshmen – 6-7 forward Alex Galindo, 6-11 center Sasha Kaun, 6-8 forward Darnell Jackson, 6-1 guard Russell Robinson and 6-10 center C.J. Giles. The recruiting class was ranked in the top 10 in the nation by several publications.

Simply put, the Wolf Pack will have their hands full during the next two games, and Fox wants to see his team take better care of the basketball.

“We got real careless and lazy with the basketball against Colorado Springs,” Fox said. “I thought we made some Little League mistakes (against Georgia State) and we’re supposed to be in the big leagues. There were passes we shouldn’t have tried to make.”

Offensively, Nick Fazekas, Kevinn Pinkney and Ramon Sessions have played well, according to Fox. Fazekas is averaging 27 points a game and Pinkney is at 11 per contest. Sessions is taking tremendous care of the ball, and has yet to turn the ball over this season, excluding exhibition games.

Fox said that Pinkney has been shooting the ball well and getting high percentage shots within the framework of the offense.

Two players Fox needs more production out of offensively are shooting guards Kyle Shiloh and Mo Charlo.

Neither has shot the ball well. Charlo has done a good job of getting to the basket, but hasn’t been able to finish (7 for 23). Shiloh is 3-for-12, mostly from the outside. He’s looked more comfortable handling the point in relief of Sessions than he has at shooting guard.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281.

Wolf Pack Report

When: Friday at Georgia, 4:30 p.m.; Monday at Kansas, 6 p.m.

TV: The Georgia game is being televised on Charter Cable 15. The Kansas game is on ESPN2

Probable starters: Georgia – F Steve Newman; G Channing Toney, Sundiata Gaines and Lev Stukes; C Dave Bliss.

Kansas – F Christian Moody and J.R. Giddens; C Wayne Simien; G Keith Langford and Aaron Miles

Nevada – F Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney; G Jermaine Washington, Kyle Shiloh and Ramon Sessions