Nevada ready and focused
Appeal Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox wasn’t succinct when talking about second-seeded Memphis. It’s hard to be a man of few words when you are talking about playing against one of the best teams in the nation.
“I don’t think we have played anyone who truly runs that style of play,” Fox said at Saturday’s pre-game press conference. “No one in our league really does. It is a little unique in that way. A couple of nonconference teams we played may have had a set or two that were similar, but no one who completely looks like that.
“They get your attention. They are just extremely long and athletic. They are explosive in every position, so they are a complete offensive unit. They play very fast, but again, they can be very effective in the half-court. So there is a reason they are sitting as a No. 2 seed.”
Chris Douglas-Roberts (15.4) and Jeremy Hunt (13.5) are the only players scoring in double figures, but the Tigers, 31-3, and owners of a nation-best 23-game win streak, have six other players averaging between 5.4 and 9.9 per game.
That’s the huge challenge awaiting seventh-seeded Nevada, 29-4, in its second-round South Regional game today at 1:45 p.m. (CBS/ESPN Radio 630 AM) at New Orleans Arena.
Without question, this might be the most athletic team the Wolf Pack have run up against this season. The Tigers are quicker than Fresno State, and have a monster in the middle in 6-9 260-pound Joey Dorsey, who teams with 6-9 defensive specialist Robert Dozier, who scores at 9.9 a game.
“They have excellent front-line play and terrific wings (Antonio Anderson and Chris Douglas Roberts),” Fox said. “They have powerful and productive front-line players. They are about as complete a team as we have seen all year.”
Nevada’s Nick Fazekas is preparing for a long day at the office.
“Joey Dorsey is a big dude,” Fazekas said. “We are definitely looking forward to it. They have Dozier, and he is also 6-9. They love to jump. We are going to have our hands full.”
Indeed. Memphis averages nearly 80 points a game and gives up just 62, and it’s the defense that is sometimes overlooked.
“We have a great offense, but our defense makes it go,” Dozier said. “It’s been that way in my two years. We play 94 feet and make teams work hard.”
No doubt that Nevada probably doesn’t want to play as fast as Memphis does, but the Wolf Pack doesn’t want to slow the game to a crawl, either.
Nevada’s success will hinge on its offensive execution, and its ability to keep the quicker Memphis players from getting to the rim.
“They create unique problems for a team like ours with their size and skill level, especially their big guys,” Memphis coach John Calipari. “(Marcelus) is as good a player as we will play. He can make 3s. (Ramon) Sessions will push the ball, so if you try to press him, he can get lay-ups. In this game, you can’t give up five easy baskets in a row by pressing. Your pressing to create tempo, your not pressing to give up easy shots.
“He (Kemp) is fearless for one. And, two, he is skilled to make 3s. He understands angles. He’ll get his body into you. He’ll get to the rim. He’ll create fouls.”
Kemp, who averages more than 18 a game, is ready for what promises to be a challenge.
“We are going to come out strong and we are going to play our game, too,” he said.
Fazekas said he’s not worried about just a one-day layoff between games.
“It’s no big deal,” Fazekas said. “Memphis is going through the same thing. Maybe they didn’t play as many minutes as we did, but it is definitely a mental thing.
“We have been lying around all day, and we’ll probably go back after practice and lay around some more and stay off our feet. To me it’s all mental, and I think we’ll be ready to go.”
It most certainly will take Nevada’s best effort of the season to make the Sweet 16 for the second time in school history, and the Pack is looking forward to the opportunity; embracing the challenge.
“It feels good and it is definitely a good opportunity for us,” Fazekas said. “Being No. 5 doesn’t mean a whole lot, but what does is being a No. 2 seed. They have won 31 games, so they are a team to be reckoned with. Their record shows how good they are.”