Nevada needs more production from bench
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – One thing that stands out about Nevada’s basketball team this year besides its losing record and inexperience is the lack of scoring and rebounding production from its bench.
The quartet of Ray Kraemer, Matt LaGrone, David Ellis and Malik Cooke is averaging a combined 5.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a contest for Nevada, which is 2-4 heading into Saturday’s home game against Montana State.
The group is shooting a combined 10 for 25, and Ellis has taken 15 of those shots. The reserves are 1 for 8 beyond the 3-point arc. Kraemer, who is averaging just six minutes a contest, came in with some impressive shooting credentials, but hasn’t received a lot of time because he’s struggled on defense. LaGrone has hit all three of his field-goal attempts thus far, two against UC Irvine.
“I don’t think our bench has been performing well in the point column,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said before the Pacific game. “It (scoring) is not really what we’re looking for. As guys learn how to play, defense and rebounding are first, the rest will take care of it itself.
“They understand what we’re trying to do. Malik is making progress. Like all freshmen, he has good and bad moments. We need more good moments. He will keep getting better.”
Injuries and off-the-court problems also have robbed Fox of some depth, too.
Junior guard Lyndale Burleson was academically ineligible the first semester, and 6-7 forward Richie Phillips suffered a stress fracture and hasn’t been cleared to practice yet. Fox is hoping to have Philips back at practice within a week. Burleson, who averaged 1.7 points a game last season, is a solid defender and a true point guard.
One name missing has been swingman Tyrone Hanson, who averaged 8.1 minutes and 1.6 points a game. Hanson made 71 percent of his 3-point attempts in WAC games last year. He was dismissed from the team after failing to obey a Fox order not go to a Halloween party.
“We’ve been playing a man short,” said Fox referring to Hanson, who certainly would have helped with bench production.
Demarshay Johnson has been slow to live up to expectations he established a couple years when he played alongside Nick Fazekas on the Nevada front line.
Johnson is averaging 6.8 points and 5 rebounds a contest, but Fox said he’s capable of a lot more.
“He’s trying to do too much,” Fox said. “He’s not comfortable yet. I’d say at both ends.”
KEMP, LAGRONE OK
Marcelus Kemp, who suffered a shoulder injury at Pacific on Saturday, and LaGrone, who was whacked in the nose at Pacific are both expected to play, according to team spokesperson Rhonda Lundin.
The Pack thought LaGrone’s nose might be broken, but it wasn’t.
Nevada’s game on Saturday is at 7:35 p.m., a half-hour later than normal because of winter commencement being held at Lawlor Events Center.