Nevada honors seniors tonight in regular-season finale | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada honors seniors tonight in regular-season finale

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

RENO – This is not the time for any members of the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team to get sentimental.

But sometimes you just can’t help it.

“It’s a sad time because my time as a college basketball player is running down,” Pack senior Brandon Fields said this week.

The Wolf Pack seniors – Fields, Joey Shaw and Ray Kraemer – will be honored before tonight’s final regular season game of the year at Lawlor Event Center against Louisiana Tech. Richie Phillips, who had to miss his senior year because of injury, also will be honored.

“It has come fast,” said Shaw of the final regular season game. “I didn’t think it would come this fast.”

It will be sort of a strange evening, at least emotionally, for the seniors. The game against Louisiana Tech, after all, isn’t really their last at Lawlor Events Center. The Wolf Pack, after all, plans on playing three more games at Lawlor next week in the Western Athletic Conference tournament starting on Thursday.

“We still have a lot of work to do here,” said Fields, who scored a career-high 32 points in Thursday night’s 100-92 victory over New Mexico State at Lawlor.

The work begins tonight against the Bulldogs at 7:05 p.m.

Louisiana Tech beat the Wolf Pack 77-71 in Ruston, La., two months ago (Jan. 2) to open the WAC regular season. A Pack victory – and a New Mexico State loss at Utah State on Saturday – will give the Pack second place in the WAC and the second seed in next week’s tournament. A loss, though, will leave Nevada in fourth place.

“We want the second seed,” Pack coach David Carter said. “I don’t want to wear blue (the Pack’s road uniforms) for as long as possible in our own building. We don’t want to stumble into the conference tournament.”

The Wolf Pack (18-11, 10-5) has been swept in the regular season by a WAC opponent just three times during the last eight seasons – by Utah State this year, Boise State in 2007-08 and Tulsa in 2002-03. The 2001-02 season is the last time more than one WAC team (Tulsa, SMU, Louisiana Tech) swept the Pack in the two-game season series in the same year.

“We want to put doubt in their minds that they can’t win here,” Carter said. “That’s important for next week.”

Louisiana Tech (22-8, 9-6) would seem to be fighting a lot of doubts right now. The Bulldogs are not playing their best basketball right now. The Bulldogs, who won 10 in a row at one point this year, were upset at Fresno State on Thursday night, 66-59, and have now lost six of their last 11 games.

The Pack, though, knows that this is not the time to start taking teams lightly.

“We have to rebound and take care of the ball,” said Carter, repeating his familiar keys to success for every game. “We didn’t do that last time.”

The Pack turned the ball over 17 times in Ruston. But they did rebound well, winning the battle of the boards, 43-36. Luke Babbitt had 24 points and 13 boards that night and Dario Hunt had 11 rebounds.

Louisiana Tech features a balanced inside-out attack with guards Jamel Guyton (11.9 points a game), Kyle Gibson (19.8) and DeAndre Brown (10.9) as well as post players Magnum Rolle (14.3) and Olu Ashaolu (10.8).

Rolle and Ashaolu are tied for fourth in the WAC in rebounding at 8.6 a game (Babbitt is the leader at 9.3) and Rolle leads the conference in blocks (2.2 a game). The two big men excel on the offensive glass. Rolle is 2nd in the WAC in offense rebounds (3.7 a game) and Ashaolu is fourth (3.2).

“We want to send our seniors out with a bang,” said Pack guard Armon Johnson, who had 11 assists against New Mexico State.

“This is it,” Carter said. “It’s either put up or shut up.”