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Nevada men’s hoops hosts SMU

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By DARRELL MOODY

Nevada Appeal News Service

RENO – Nevada seeks its second straight Western Athletic Conference victory when it hosts SMU tonight at 7:05 at Lawlor Events Center.

Nevada (8-4, 2-1) has won six straight home games, equalling a feat it accomplished back in the 2000-2001 season.

The Wolf Pack face a SMU team (7-5, 1-1) that lost a 54-53 heartbreaker to conference-leading Fresno State Thursday night. Nevada won two of three games against SMU last season, one at Lawlor and one at the WAC Tournament in Tulsa.

“From what I’ve seen on tape, they are a lot better,” Nevada coach Trent Johnson said after Thursday’s win over Louisiana Tech. “They have two wins over Top 25 teams (Texas Tech and Purdue).”

Another thing that makes SMU dangerous is that the Mustangs are the only WAC team to have a winning road record in conference play each of the last two seasons. SMU went 10-8 each of the last two years.

“They’re always pretty athletic,” Nevada’s Kirk Snyder said. “They’re going to get up and down the floor. They’re not that much of a threat inside.”

The Mustangs, who have 11 players back, are led by sophomore point guard Bryan Hopkins, who was the WAC Freshman of the Year last season. Hopkins is averaging 15.1 points and 4.1 assists per game, forward Patrick Simpson is averaging 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, Justin Isham is averaging 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds and Eric Castro is scoring 10.2 points per outing and pulling down six rebounds a contest.

Nevada has a new look, as 6-foot 11-inch freshman center Nick Fazekas appears to be the new starter ahead of senior Sean Paul. Fazekas scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds against Louisiana Tech, and is expected to start tonight.

“It felt good (to start),” Fazekas said. “I put in a lot of hard work. I think I deserve it.”