Nevada men put home win streak on the line
RENO – The University of Nevada’s men’s basketball team puts its 15-game home winning streak on the line this weekend when it opens the non-conference season by hosting the Jim Thorpe Classic at Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada, coming off a 25-9 season and a first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, takes on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs at 3:30 p.m. Southern Mississippi battles Georgia State at 8:30 p.m. in the other opening-night matchup.
As of Wednesday, Nevada’s first-year head coach Mark Fox said that he hasn’t delved much into his first-round opponent yet. It’s not arrogance on Fox’s part by any stretch of the imagination. With six new players on the roster, there has been more teaching going on than ever before.
“We’re focusing on ourselves,” Fox said. “They are ready for the season to start. They are tired of playing against each other and they’re tired of hearing me. They are ready to go out and compete.”
Fox has been pleased with the progress of the team between the first exhibition game (Nov.4) and the second one (Nov. 13), but admits the Wolf Pack have a long way to go.
Fox said that his rotation may be shortened up somewhat. In the first two exhibition games, all 10 players have seen action. That may not change, but the amount of minutes everybody gets could change, according to Fox, who wants to make sure everybody gets enough experience heading into big road games at Kansas, Georgia and Toledo and the Western Athletic Conference season.
Fox has been pleased with the play of guards Ramon Sessions and Kyle Shiloh. The duo has taken good care of the ball and played solid defense.
“They’re both progressing at a rate we’re happy with,” Fox said. “They’re not going to become TO (Todd Okeson, last year’s starting point guard) overnight. We’re pleased with the way they are coming along.”
Sessions led the team with 15 points last week on 5-for-10 shooting and Shiloh added seven points, including two first-half three-pointers. In 55 combined minutes, the duo had six assists and six turnovers.
Mo Charlo scored eight points, dished out three assists and blocked two shots last week in his 27-minute stint, as he’s seemed to have shaken off his bout with strep throat. Unless he’s moved into the starting lineup, Charlo will spell both Shiloh and Jermaine Washington.
The Mountain Lions, a member of the Division II Rocky Mountain Conference, played two Division I opponents in their first two non-conference games – University of Missouri-Kansas City (91-53) and the University of Wyoming (99-50) – and now catch Nevada and either Southern Mississippi or Georgia State on the second day of the tournament. After that, the Mountain Lions get perennial Division II powerhouse Metro State.
“We’ll play five games and never play anybody the rest of the year that’s better than these five five opponents,” said first-year head coach Lance Hammond in a released statement. “It’s a good measuring stick. It lets the kids know where they are and how far they need to come.”
The Colorado school needs plenty of work. The Mountain Lions have been out-rebounded by an average of 18 rebounds per game, and have given up more than 25 rebounds in each of their first two games. The Colorado squad plays the same type of offense as Seattle Pacific – one post player and four perimeter players. That could mean big nights inside for Nick Fazekas, Kevinn Pinkney, David Ellis and Chad Bell, Nevada’s four front-line players.
The Mountain Lions will use a combination 6-10 bounce-back transfer Chris McGowne, 6-6 280-pound freshman Devin Martin and 6-7 senior Jim Pecic in the post, though Pecic can be effective on the perimeter.
Stephon Hicks, Trey White and point guard Torrey Phillips will play outside
(insert bullet) Southern Mississippi, coached by former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy, has won both of its exhibition games in impressive fashion. The Golden Eagles knocked off Belhaven 79-61 and West Alabama 75-58.
Eustachy has been out of basketball for the past several years because of a drinking problem, and he’s happy to be back on the sidelines.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Eustachy said at Southern Mississippi’s recent Media Day gathering. “I’ve got a feeling that I really haven’t had. I’ve never been more rested or felt better mentally, or felt so comfortable in my own skin. It’s not weird, but it’s different.
“I like to go out there and teach and correct, and if there’s a problem with some kind of attitude then it gets addressed. I think we’re getting a lot more done than we have in the past.”
The Golden Eagles are led by center Jasper Johnson (6-8, 290), who is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the first two contests. Swingman David Haywood is averaging 15 points a game thus far, and JC transfer Rashaad Carruth is averaging 19 points a game in 25 minutes per game.
“He’s doing fine,” Eustachy said at a recent press conference. “He’s been a pleasant guy to coach. We need more guys like Rashaad; people who question you every now and then and rattle the cage every now and then.”
Georgia State, coached by Mike Perry, returns seven players and one redshirt from last year’s team that compiled a 20-9 record. A year ago, Georgia State knocked off SEC foe Auburn, Tulsa from the WAC, South Alabama from the Sun Belt and the University of Central Florida, which reached the NCAAs.
Since the 1997-98 season, Georgia State has more wins (133) than both University of Georgia (118) and Georgia Tech (122), and it has won 20 or more games in each of the last three seasons.
The Panthers will play an up-tempo, full-court pressing defense, and Perry likes to keep his players fresh so that he can play that way the entire game.
Senior Kevin Thomas, who knocked down 63 treys last year en route to averaging 10 points a game, is one of the top returnees. Junior point guard Herman Favors scored 204 points, dished out 104 assists and grabbed 63 rebounds, and he’s the smallest player on the team at 5-9. Another top returnee is 6-7 forward Marcus Brown, who averaged 7.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. D’Andre McGrew, a 6-4 small forward, averaged 6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.
JIM THORPE CLASSIC
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Lawlor Events Center
Schedule: Saturday – Nevada plays University of
Colorado at Colorado Springs at 3:30 and Georgia State
plays Southern Mississippi at 8:30 p.m. Sunday ñ
Consolation championship at 5 p.m., Championship game
at 7:05 p.m.
Admission: Saturday – $25 for both the menís games and
the womenís games on Saturday. $25 for both menís
games on Sunday