Nevada faces Toledo in rematch
Kevinn Pinkney remembers last year’s game against Toledo all too well.
“It was a pretty good game last year,” the Nevada center said. “Hopefully it won’t come down to the wire like it did last year.”
A year ago, Nevada tipped Toledo 60-58 in the ESPN Bracket Buster game when Garry Hill-Thomas tipped in a Todd Okeson miss at the buzzer, snapping a 58-all deadlock.
With Toledo returning 10 players from last season’s team, the Nevada (4-1) will have its hands full when it visits winless Toledo (0-3) today at 4 p.m. (listen to ESPN Radio 630AM).
Toledo, 11-0 in home openers, has lost this season to Vanderbilt, Wright State and East Carolina, all away from the friendly confines of Savage Hall. The Rockets are 32-3 in nonconference home games under coach Stan Joplin.
“We’re off to a bad start,” Joplin said. “The starters just aren’t playing like they were last year. We’re digging ourselves an early hole. We’re not ready to play. Things that are happening shouldn’t be happening to a team that has a lot of players coming back.
“We definitely need a win and it’s good for us to have the chance to do it in front of our home crowd. We’ve struggled on the road and hopefully being at home will allow us to start building the momentum we need.”
Some of that momentum Joplin hopes will be generated by better play from shooting guard Keith Triplett, who is averaging 10 points a game, well off the 19.6 he averaged last year. Triplett suffered a broken nose against Nevada last year and didn’t play the entire second half.
Sophomore Florentin Valencia, a 6-5 forward, has taken up the slack offensively. He’s shooting 54 percent from the field and averaging 14.7 points and seven rebounds a game. Keonta Howell, who scored 19 against East Carolina in his first-ever start, is averaging 9.7. Sammy Villegas, Toledo’s 6-6 swingman, is averaging 8.7.
Joplin is impressed with Nevada.
“Nevada has the best front line we have faced so far,” he said. “Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney can get you a double-double in a heartbeat. We have our work cut out for us, and we can’t fall behind early.
“Seems like we’re going to have our hands full. They’re pretty close (in terms of athleticism) compared to last year’s team. (Ramon) Sessions is going to be a good player. He’s athletic and can do a lot of things. He just needs more exposure.”
Sessions is coming off a career-high 10-assist game against UNLV, and he’s averaging 9.4 points a game. Junior Mo Charlo comes off a season-best 13-point effort against the Rebels, and the Wolf Pack need him to be a consistent double-figure scorer.
NOTES: Nick Fazekas, who has been the team’s top scorer in every game thus far, had his streak of 20 straight free throws ended. Clark Kellogg of Yahoo Sports listed Fazekas as one of his elite players back on Nov. 22. … Nevada is 1-1 on the road. The Wolf Pack beat Georgia and lost at Kansas. … After Toledo, Nevada hosts UOP on Saturday and then hosts the Dodge Classic the following weekend.
Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281.