Nevada moves up one spot in USA Today/ESPN poll | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada moves up one spot in USA Today/ESPN poll

RENO – The Nevada men’s basketball team moved up to No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN poll and remained at No. 25 in the Associated Press poll.

The Wolf Pack, 9-1, won twice last week. Nevada beat Saint Mary’s, 76-58, and outlasted Pacific, 60-53.

Nevada visits Akron, 6-2, Friday night in a return of last year’s BracketBuster contest which Nevada won easily, 88-61.

Akron played last night, and was coming off a loss to the University of Illinois-Chicago, 86-80. Prior to that Akron had won six straight, including road wins at Niagra, Oral Roberts, Binghampton and Winston-Salem State.

Akron returns four starters from last year’s team, including 6-foot-7 Romeo Travis (15.3), 6-6 Jeremiah Wood (11.0), 6-1 guard Nick Dials (10.6) and 6-foot guard Cedrick Middleton (10.5).

The Pack will have a little bit of break before departing Wednesday morning for Akron.

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“Anytime you can get rested, it’s a good thing in this game,” point guard Ramon Sessions said.

Sessions had a solid floor game despite suffering a thigh contusion. He moved around well and showed no signs of restricted movement. There was soreness after the game, but that was to be expected.

Nevada wasn’t a strong 3-point shooting team the past two years, but is making 44 percent from beyond the arc this season. That figure puts Nevada among the top 25 in the nation.

While the 44 percent average is good, the team seems to be running less sets through All-American forward Nick Fazekas, who is still averaging 20.6 and a nation’s best 12.8 rebounds per game.

The most successful teams run an inside-out offense, but Nevada players sometimes fall in love with their outside game at times, and sometimes don’t even look inside. Nevada coach Mark Fox doesn’t want his team to lose its outside aggressiveness, but he has admitted there are times that his team’s shot selection hasn’t been the greatest.

Fazekas needs two field goals to pass Edgar Jones for first place all-time in field goals made and needs five free throws to pass Terrance Green for first in career free throws made.

WAC HONOREE

Boise State’s junior forward Reggie Larry, a transfer from Southern Idaho College, was named the men’s basketball player of the week.

Larry scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds in the Broncos’ 99-66 win over Sac State. Larry was 9-for-10 shooting, including two 3-pointers, and he also made all four of his free-throw attempts.

BRACKETBUSTER WEEKEND

The fifth annual ESPN BracketBuster isn’t until Feb. 16-17, but one can’t help but to envision possible opponents for the Wolf Pack.

Home and away teams have already been predetermined in this format. Of the 51 total games that weekend, six will be shown on ESPN2 and an additional five games will be aired on ESPNU.

Winthrop, UW Green Bay, Bradley, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are several of the big names out there that would make a good opponent for the Pack.

MODEL OF CONSISTENCY

Utah State had its eight-game win streak snapped over the weekend by BYU. That comes on the heels of the Aggies’ home win over Utah.

Stew Morrill’s Aggies are one of five teams in the country to win 23 games in each of the last seven years. The others are Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois and Kansas. Granted the Aggies’ schedule is a tad easier than the aforementioned teams, but there are a lot of good teams who are probably afraid to play USU in Logan where the Aggies are 115-11 under Morrill.

LEADERS ON THE FLOOR

There are six players in the WAC who lead their basketball teams in two of three statistical categories (points-rebounds-assists).

Boise State’s Coby Karl is tied for the lead in points (15.1) and assists (3.5), Hawai’i’s Matt Lojeski leads his team in points (15.4) and assists (5.3), Nevada’s Nick Fazekas leads in points (20.6) and rebounds (12.8), New Mexico State’s Justin Hawkins leads in points (17.6) and rebounds (8.2) and Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll leads in points (22.7) and rebounds (5.3).

Tech’s Chad McKenzie leads in all three categories with marks of 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

EFFECTIVE NEWCOMERS

New Mexico State’s Fred Peete and his teammate Justin Hawkins are two of the most impressive new players in the WAC this year.

Hawkins is averaging 17.6 a contest and Peete leads the conference in steals at 1.9 per contest.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281