Nevada set to face Boise State | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada set to face Boise State

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

BOISE, Idaho – Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox has a healthy respect for Boise State guard Coby Karl.

“I remember telling his dad (George, head coach for the Denver Nuggets) that he was an all-league player three years ago and that I would vote for him,” Fox said earlier this week. “I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s a terrific player.”

Not only does Fox respect Karl for his play on the floor, but the way he battled against cancer that was discovered late last season.

Fox will get an up-close look at Karl tonight (6:05 p.m.) when the Broncos (16-10, 8-5) host Nevada (25-2, 12-1) in a big Western Athletic Conference battle at Taco Bell Arena.

Nevada is ranked 10th by ESPN/USA Today and 11th by the Associated Press.

“He’s been here the whole time with me,” Boise State coach Greg Graham said of Karl. “He redshirted that first year. He’s been here five years. (Senior forward) Eric (Lane) was in my first full recruiting class and this is his fourth year.”

Fox knows he has to worry about more than Karl when he plays the Broncos. Besides Karl, who scores 15.1 points per game, forwards Reggie Larry and Matt Nelson each average 13.6 while Eric Lane, another senior, averages 9.6.

“They are playing great,” Fox said. “They can score from everywhere and they have good low post players (Nelson and Larry). They are good shooters. They have so much firepower.”

It’s the first time in his Boise State tenure that Graham has started a lineup where he has so many offensive weapons.

“I have five guys that are able to score,” Graham said. “We struggled with that (before). If teams try to stop one guy, another guy will step up.”

Nelson and Larry, both first-year players for the Broncos, have made a huge difference. Both are averaging 13.6 ppg and both grab nearly nine rebounds per game.

Nelson had 19 and Larry 22 in the last meeting between Wolf Pack and Broncos, a 90-86 Nevada win. Nevada’s interior defense was weak that night because All-American forward Nick Fazekas didn’t play the entire second half after spraining his left ankle. Fazekas scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds in 15 minutes.

“We played a half without Nick,” Fox said. “We had to adjust on the run.”

The key may very well be how Nevada forward Denis Ikovlev matches up defensively with Nelson and Larry when he’s in the game. He gives up quickness to Larry and weight to Nelson.

Graham said that Fazekas gets the lion’s share of attention and deservedly so, but his supporting cast is strong.

“(Ramon) Sessions has stepped up and won games,” Graham said. “(Kyle) Shiloh has stepped up. Marcelus (Kemp) is the guy that played well when Fazekas was out.

“What I’ve noticed the most is the mental part of the game. They don’t get rattled. They get behind, and they know what they are supposed to do. They have good basketball players. They have guys that have played together for three or four years.”

Fazekas, Shiloh, Kemp and Sessions have scored in double figures in each of the last three games and are all averaging in double figures in conference play.

The Wolf Pack shot 62 percent against Idaho and 51 percent against Northern Iowa and San Jose State before that.

That versatility and the mental toughness Graham alluded to has made Nevada the best road team in the WAC over the past three years. Nevada has posted a 31-8 record away from Lawlor Events Center during Fox’s tenure, and the Pack hopes to add to that tonight.

Nevada’s only loss away from Lawlor came to New Mexico State back in January. Nevada is hoping to avenge that loss on March 3 when the Aggies come to Reno.

NOTES: Nevada, which has the best record in the country, has won seven of its last eight and 18 of its last 19 … If Nevada wins out in the regular season, it wound finish with 28 wins. The 1945-46 squad of Jake Lawlor went 28-5 … With Washington State losing at Oregon on Thursday, if Nevada takes care of business tonight, it has a chance to get into the top 10 in the AP poll … Fazekas has scored in double figures in 55 straight games, trailing Jackson State’s Trey Johnson (60 as of Thursday) and Oral Roberts’ Caleb Green (56 as of Thursday). Fazekas has 61 career 20-point games and he leads the nation among active players … Nevada has won five of the last six regular-season meetings against the Broncos… Boise State upset Nevada in the first round of the 2005 WAC Tournament.

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