Nevada glad to be back home
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox insists there isn’t panic among the players or coaches over the team’s 2-4 start.
“We fully anticipated there would be bumps in the road,” Fox said before Friday’s practice. “We understand the big picture.”
Panic or not, Fox knows that with four home games in 11 days, starting with tonight’s contest (7:35 p.m.) against Montana State, his team needs to keep getting better and put some Ws on the left side of the ledger, too.
“I think playing at Lawlor we’ll have more energy,” sophomore guard Brandon Fields said. “It will be good to play four home games in a row. It’s always better to play at home.”
“The road is fun, but home is home,” back-up center/forward Matt LaGrone said. “It’s going to be fun.”
And, Nevada has been tough to beat in its own building. The Pack has won 25 of its last 27 games at Lawlor. The loss to Cal back on Nov. 28 snapped a 13-game home winning streak.
None of these games are going to be cakewalks, however. Make no mistake about it, Montana State, San Diego, Central Florida and Colorado State are certainly capable of hanging losses on this young Pack squad. In fact, the Pack opened its season with a road loss to Central Florida.
Fox admitted it will be nice to be home for a bit, but Montana State (4-3) is first and foremost on his mind. He can’t afford to look ahead at what could be during this upcoming 11-day period.
“They (Montana State) are very well coached,” Fox said. “They have a couple of different 3-point threats and their bigs can shoot the ball. We have a real challenge in front of us.”
Montana State, which is winless on the road, is shooting 45 percent from the floor, as 6-9 250-pound center Divaldi Mbunga shoots 63 percent and 6-9 forward Adrian Zamora is at 46 percent.
Senior guard Carlos Taylor knocks down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts and backcourt mate Casey Durham currently sits at 44 percent. The Bobcats’ third guard, Mecklen Davis, shoots 47 percent but isn’t a 3-point threat.
Taylor leads the Bobcats at 17.4 a game, and he was recently named the Big Sky Player of the Week.
“He (Taylor) has shot well from the perimeter, and he’s been able to get to the line,” MSU head coach Brad Huse said. “He’s been consistently scoring in a lot of different ways. He’s versatile.
“We’re trying to execute better in the half-court. We’ve been sped up a few times.”
Huse, who was an assistant at Montana when the Grizzlies knocked off Nevada in the first round of the NCAA playoffs two years ago, would like to see his team play more defense; get more stops.
“We’re having to rely on our offense way too much,” Huse said. “We have to defend better. It’s always an issue when we go on the road.”
The Bobcats are allowing 77.2 points a contest in their three road losses, while averaging just 66 points offensively. Conversely, the Bobcats average 84 points a game offensively at home.
Huse knows Nevada will be a handful defensively.
“They are a real talented team,” Huse said. “They are a team that executes well.
“I wish (Marcelus) Kemp had gone to the NBA last year. I was an assistant on that Montana staff, and he had 34 (career-high) I think in that game. He’s big, strong and athletic. (JaVale) McGee is long and athletic. He is one guy that will be tough to slow down. He is a real dominant player.”
Kemp injured his shoulder in the 70-66 loss to UOP, but is expected to play, according to Fox.
“He’s sore,” Fox said. “It was worse on Monday than it was Sunday.”
Fox said that he has cut down on Kemp’s reps during practice, but expects his star guard to play his normal 30-plus minutes tonight.
Notes: Kemp has a good chance to move up a couple spots in two different categories in the Nevada record book. He ranks fourth all-time in 3-point field goals made with 168, two behind Jimmy Carroll. Kemp, who is currently No. 9 in career scoring with 1,391 points needs 14 points tonight to pass Kirk Snyder and move into eighth place … A reminder to fans that the game starts 30 minutes later than usual because of winter graduation … The commencement ceremony forced Nevada to practice in the Old Virginia Street Gym … McGee is nine blocks shy of cracking the top 10. He has 49 in 39 career games. Marlo Martin had 49 in his career.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281