Nevada to face Fresno State
Appeal Sports Writer
FRESNO, Calif. – This has been a tough rookie season for Fresno State’s first-year coach Steve Cleveland. The former BYU head coach has a lot of new faces, only eight scholarship players and his team is ineligible for the post-season because of infractions by the previous coaching staff.
The Bulldogs, who host Nevada (13-3, 3-1) tonight at the Save Mart Center at 7 p.m. (KREN-TV), have been a tad inconsistent in posting an 8-6 overall record, and one has to wonder if having nothing to play for has contributed to that in any way. No matter what Fresno State does this year, its season will end March 4. There’s nothing over the rainbow.
Has that changed the focus of the team?
“Right now, we’re focusing on one game, and right now it’s Nevada,” Cleveland said. “The young men know what the circumstances are. We don’t talk about it. We can’t worry about things we can’t control.”
Nevada coach Mark Fox, whose team has won three of its last four at Fresno State, knows how explosive the Bulldogs can be with forward Quinton Hosley and guard Ja’Vance Coleman. He also knows that the Bulldogs have a quality road win against Iowa State and impressive home wins against Oregon State and Utah State.
“I think coach Cleveland changed the mindset right away,” Fox said. “They’re a very aggressive team. They’re an excellent basketball team. They have very explosive players. We’ll have our hands full.
“We had an excellent team two years ago. We were able to go there and win. The biggest thing is that we’ve caught them at the right time.”
The Bulldogs have always been a dangerous team for Nevada, and they are doubly dangerous coming off road losses at New Mexicio State and Louisiana Tech.
“We’re right back into the fire,” Cleveland said. “We’re playing an outstanding team that all of a sudden has guys shooting the ball well from the perimeter. This team was picked to win our league. They play with a lot of confidence, have great experience and depth.
“Louisiana Tech, Hawai’i, Nevada and Utah State are the premiere teams in the conference, and all have a post presence, but none like (Nick) Fazekas. (Kyle) Shiloh is shooting the ball better and (Marcelus) Kemp is an outstanding shooter. In order to compete, we have to shoot well and play with a sense of urgency like we did against Utah State.”
With Fazekas operating against 6-9 Hector Hernandez, Cleveland knows it could be a long night. Fazekas went 9 for 9 from the field and 2 for 2 at the line in last Saturday’s win over Boise State.
“Any team with a post presence gives us problems,” he said. “We’re playing two guys in there that weigh about 200 pounds. We have to pressure the ball and front the post in order to stay competitive. We need to make it a 94-foot game to cover our weakness up front.
“Our defense wasn’t very good (on the road). We didn’t get stops when we needed.”
The Bulldogs also need to do a better job on the boards. They are being outrebounded by nearly five rebounds a game.
And, to make matters worse, Hosley (18.4) and Coleman (18-1) are coming off their worst games of the season. Hosley went 0 for 13 against Louisiana Tech and Coleman went 2 for 11. The Bulldogs don’t have enough offensive weapons to overcome a shooting meltdown like that, according to Cleveland.
“We just don’t have those people yet if they don’t have good nights,” Cleveland said referring to Hosley and Coleman. “Donovan Morris hit some baskets, but we just don’t have those people yet. Some are here but not able to play until next year.”
Off game or not, Fox is impressed with Hosley, a JC transfer. He and Coleman form a potent 1-2 punch.
“He’s done an excellent job for them,” Fox said. “I’m not sure if he played last year or sat out. To make an impact like he has is unbelievable. He’s putting up terrific numbers, and he’s playing very well in several aspects of the game. He’s a terrific player and a great addition to our league.”
Just like it did against Boise State, Nevada will have to defend the 3-point line hard. Fresno State knocked down 13 3-pointers against Utah State in a double-overtime win. Coleman (38.5), Morris (45.8) and Hernandez (37.9) are the best from long distance. Hosley is shooting only 23 percent from beyond the arc.
Notes: The loss of David Ellis (broken hand) is critical to the Pack, especially when it plays teams with several big men. The Pack will have to get a couple of extra minutes out of Fazekas, Chad Bell and Demarshay Johnson to make up for Ellis, who averaged around 8 minutes a contest … If nothing else, Nevada players should be well rested. Thanks to easy wins over Idaho and Boise State, Fox was able to use a lot of his bench players … Nevada has outrebounded three of its last four opponents, including a 47-30 edge over Boise State. Nevada is 10-2 when it outrebounds foes. Fazekas is averaging 9.1 and Mo Charlo is at 6.2 … Kyle Shiloh, who scored 37 points last week and enjoyed back-to-back double-digit games for the first time in his career, leads the team in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 1.71 mark. Shiloh doesn’t average enough assists to qualify for WAC rankings.