Nevada to face Creighton
Appeal Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Nevada forward Nick Fazekas is usually uppermost in the thoughts of opposing coaches, and Creighton’s Dana Altman is no exception.
Altman praised the 6-11 Fazekas at length during Thursday’s pre-game press conference at New Orleans Arena.
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“He’s a very gifted offensive player,” said Altman, whose 10th-seeded Bluejays face No. 7 Nevada in a first-round NCAA South Regional game today at noon (CBS, ESPN Radio 630 AM). “He scores in a lot of different ways. He can score inside. He shoots the three. He can put the ball on the floor. For (being) 6-11, he’s really agile.
“Usually with a guy like that, he gets down on the block and you can double-team him and try to keep the ball out of his hands. We haven’t faced a 6-11 guy who can score in this amount of different ways, and he’s a good passer . He’s a different type of problem than we’ve faced in the past.”
Anthony Tolliver, the Bluejays’ 6-7 center, gets the unenviable assignment of trying to slow down Nevada’s star.
“We have watched quite a bit of film already, and we are going to watch a lot more before the game,” Tolliver said. “Just like any other player, he has his tendencies. My job is to take away those tendencies and force him to do something he’s not used to doing. I’m sure they will try to do the same to us.”
First, Fazekas has to get the ball. Nevada’s 6-11 All American only got up 10 shots in last weekend’s 79-77 WAC semifinal loss to Utah State. For Nevada to succeed, Fazekas has to get the touches.
And, as Creighton guard Nate Funk pointed out, stopping Fazekas doesn’t translate into an automatic win.
“Nevada has two guys (Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp) that are averaging 20 points a game,” Funk said. “If you try to stop one, the other will kill you. It is tough in that aspect. They are playing pretty good basketball right now.
“They are a good match-up for us. Our guards match up well with theirs. Their size poses a problem, but I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
Creighton certainly has the eye of Nevada’s players and coach Mark Fox.
The Bluejays have four starters in double figures – Funk at 17.6, Tolliver 13.4, Nick Porter 10.6 and Dane Watts 10.1. They shoot 45 percent as a team and only 35 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Creighton is a complete basketball team,” Fox said. “They have excellent shooting and a very good front line. They play multiple defenses. They are extremely experienced and they don’t make mistakes. They are as complete a team as we have seen in a long time. We have a great deal of respect for how they play.
“Nate Funk has a great dribble game. He has great balance and can go either way. He can change direction on the dribble and he has terrific ballhandling ability. When you combine that with his shooting skills, the ability to finish plays and the great feel for the game, that’s why he is as good as he is.”
Senior Kyle Shiloh, who is recovering from a strained left hamstring suffered against Idaho last week at the WAC tournament, is expected to draw Funk, who averages more than 17 points a game.
‘We have not let Kyle go full throttle this week,” Fox said. “The first day he practiced was on Tuesday, but not at full speed. We did that by design to give him as much time to heal before the game. He will play, and if he feels comfortable we will play him as much as we have to.”
Funk appears to have a healthy respect for Shiloh.
“He can shoot it and he can drive it,” Funk said. “He is pretty strong on the defensive end. I watched the game against Northern Iowa. He went off in the second half. We can’t let him get going. We can’t let him get loose.”
Both teams are well rested. Nevada hasn’t played in six days, and Creighton hasn’t played in 11 days.
“The extra day, Friday as opposed to Thursday, will really help Kyle,” Fox said. “He certainly needed the time to heal, and when you travel it’s a little easier traveling to the league tournament compared to traveling here. It has given us time to prepare and get healthy.”
Tolliver said that the Bluejays have been scrimmaging quite a bit to stay sharp.
“We have been trying to simulate games in practice,” the Bluejays’ center said. “We’re trying to keep that game feeling in our legs. That’s going to be the toughest part of the game – the first four minutes – to come out and continue to play like we have. I think the coaches have done a good job of concentrating on keeping the game speed and intensity. If we go out there and play our game, we’ll be fine.”
No doubt Nevada will have something to say about that.