Nevada hosts arch rival UNLV
RENO — Dealing with adversity is something all college basketball teams deal with in the course of the season.
Mark Fox, Nevada’s first-year head coach, is anxious to see how his team responds against in-state rival UNLV tonight (8:05 tip-off) at Lalwlor Events Center following its 33-point road loss to Kansas on Monday.
“If you’re going to be a winner in life, you have to deal with adversity,” Fox said before Thursday’s practice at Old Virginia Street Gym. “We didn’t respond to the environment and defensive pressure against Kansas.”
Added senior co-captain Kevinn Pinkney, “I think every team needs to get blown out like that. It was a great experience for our younger players. Now they know what Division I basketball is like. I think we’ll be able to play through it. We’re not playing to our potential, myself included. It comes with experience. We have to stop turning the ball over.”
Turnovers haven’t been as much a problem as the Wolf Pack’s inability to knock down many shots, especially three-pointers, from outside the key.
Through four games, Nevada is a putrid 6-for-38 from beyond the three-point arc, and three of those are by 6-11 forward Nick Fazekas, who leads the team in scoring at 21.7 per game. At this time last year, the Wolf Pack had already buried 20 three-pointers. As teams start to clamp down on Fazekas and Pinkney, itís imperative that guys like Jermaine Washington, Ramon Sessions, Mo Charlo and Kyle Shiloh be able to make shots from 15 feet and beyond.
“I would sag in against us,” Pinkney said. “Our team is not shooting well. The outside shot will come with more repetition. We’re rushing our shots a little bit.”
Fox doesn’t appear outwardly concerned about the lack of outside shooting yet. He said that many of the outside attempts have come out of rhythm and sometimes not within the framework of the offense. He also doesn’t expect UNLV to play a packed in zone or soft man-to-man defense.
“They’ve been playing pressure defense,” Fox said. “I wouldn’t think they would change, but maybe they will. Vegas is extremely good offensively and very athletic.
“They have a great coach and a handful of experienced players which is an advantage at this time of the year. They have some guys that played a lot of minutes last year.”
Fox was referring to new UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who took Florida to the Final Four in the early 90s before departing for the NBA ranks. Kruger has the Rebels off to a 2-1 start, including a one-point road win at Cal on Wednesday.
“Things have gone very well,” Kruger said. “We played a little harder in the second game than we did in the first game. Any time there is a new situation (coach) there is going to be transition and adjustment. The attitude has been great.”
Kruger said there have been no major surprises thus far, and he’s been especially pleased with his three returning senior starters – 6-7 forward Odartey Blankson (17.7 points, 8 rebounds per game), 6-7 swingman Romel Beck (15.0, 1.0) and 5-10 point guard Jerel Blasingame (4.0, 7.3 assists).
Beck was impressive against Cal, scoring 21 points, including five three-pointers. Blankson had a 25-point, 11-rebound game against Oregon State in UNLV’s first win.
“I expected them to lead the way and they have,” Kruger said. “The big guys (6-9 newcomer Joel Anthony, 6-9 returnee Louis Amundson and 6-9 transfer Dustin Villepigue) are working hard to improve. They work hard and have good work ethic.”
As in any rivalry game, this one should be very heated and competitive. Nevada won 74-62 last year in Las Vegas, and that was a rare road win for the Wolf Pack.
“It will be a competitive game,” Pinkney said. “It’s a rivalry game. Everybody will be hyped up to prove who is the best in Nevada.”
Notes: Nevada has won 17 straight at home, the eighth-longest win streak in the nation… Fazekas is the only Wolf Pack player in double figures, but Pinkney and Sessions are close at 9.8… UNLV has improved its shooting from the floor in each game. The Rebels shot 34.4 in the loss to Saint Mary’s, 45.5 in the win over Oregon State and 52.8 in the win over Cal.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.
UNLV (2-1) at Nevada (3-1)
When: Tonight, 8:05 p.m.
Where: Lawlor Events Center
Tickets: $9, $11 and $13
Radio: ESPN Radio 630AM, pre-game at 7:30
TV: ESPN Full-Court Pay-per-view
Probable lineups: UNLV – F Odartey Blankson and Louis
Amundson; C Dustin Villepigue; G Jerel Blassingame and
Romel Beck. NEVADA – F Nick Fazekas and Kevinn
Pinkney; G Jermain Washington, Ramon Sessions and Kyle
Shiloh or Mo Charlo.