Nevada hosts Northern Iowa
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – The BracketBuster has been good to both Nevada and Northern Iowa. In fact, neither team has lost a game in the yearly event for mid-major programs.
Nevada has beaten Akron, Toledo and Vermont, all at Lawlor Events Center. Meanwhile, UNI has won all four of its previous games, including a win over Bucknell last year.
One streak will end today (3 p.m., ESPN2) when 10th-ranked Nevada (23-2) and slumping Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Conference collide at Lawlor Events Center.
Northern Iowa enters the game on a downward spiral, having dropped four straight and seven of its last eight games to drop to 16-11 overall.
Still, Nevada coach Mark Fox has a healthy respect for the Panthers, who own wins over Iowa, Iowa State and Bucknell this season.
“They are a very complete team,” Fox said. “I have a lot more respect for them now than before (watching tape). They have lost some close games and been on the road (a lot). They are going through a tough stretch, but they’re still an extremely good team.
“They aren’t afraid to run and they aren’t afraid to use the clock. They are somewhat like Pacific and Utah State. They are a good executing team and have good low post play.”
The Panthers have good post presence in 6-6 240-pound Eric Coleman, who averages 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds a game, and 6-8 240-pound Grant Stout, who averages 12.3 and 9.1, respectively.
“Coleman is very physical,” Fox said. “Stout is a terrific player. He shoots the 3-pointer and runs the floor. He’s a very good player.”
Fox said he has not yet decided what the defensive matchups will be, though with Coleman being more of an inside player, that assignment would likely go to Fazekas with Denis Ikovlev getting Stout.
The Panthers’ lack of success in their past eight games can be attributed to poor shooting, especially from beyond the arc. Since sinking 11 of 15 3-pointers in a 56-54 loss to Southern Illinois, UNI has gone 36-for-139 from beyond the arc, a paltry 25.8 percent.
“A couple of guys have not shot the basketball quite as well (as before),” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said. “We haven’t shot the ball quite as well from 3 as before. We need to play a little bit better.”
Stout is 6 for his last 26 from beyond the arc, while guards Travis Brown and Brooks McKowen are 7 for 30 and 8 for 29, respectively. Only the Panthers’ fifth starter, 5-11 Jared Josten, is shooting better than 28 percent from 3-point range.
“Many of the 3s have been very good looks,” Jacobson said. “For the first 20 games, we put up good numbers.”
Jacobson said that tempo will be an important factor in the game, especially on the road.
“You hope to be able to control the tempo a little,” Jacobson said. “That doesn’t mean walking the ball up the floor and having long possessions.”
Jacobson knows he is facing a team that can score points in bunches and has plenty of offensive options, led by All American Nick Fazekas, Marcelus Kemp, Kyle Shiloh and Ramon Sessions.
“We’re playing against a real good team,” Jacobson said. “In watching them, they do a very good job of playing the game at the pace they want to. The thing I see is they take advantage of opportunities in transition or in 1/4 court.
“They make sure Fazekas gets touches. He shoots the 3-point shot well and he obviouly can score down on the block. He’s a very good all-around player. Nevada’s guards are very, very good players. They are an experienced group and have confidence in what they’re doing.”
Shiloh is averaging 17 points over his last two games, and his two big 3-pointers helped Nevada establish a 12-point lead against San Jose State on Wednesday night. If Shiloh keeps scoring from the outside, it will make Nevada even more dangerous.
Notes: Fox said that playing a 3 p.m. game isn’t a big deal because of previous afternoon games Nevada played earlier this year against Gonzaga and Cal … Fazekas needs just six rebounds to pass Tech’s Paul Millsap and become the WAC’s fourth-best rebounder all time … Nevada is 11-1 in conference and enjoys a two-game lead over New Mexico State with four conference games remaining. Three of those are on the road – Idaho, Boise State and Utah State. Nevada closes out the regular season at home on March 3 against Nw Mexico State.