Nevada to face Gonzaga
December 29, 2006
SEATTLE, Wash. – Nevada stepped into the national spotlight with its second-round win over Gonzaga in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
And, the Wolf Pack have never left the glare brought on by the bright lights of success since that historic win that put the school in the Sweet 16 for the first time.
Nevada, ranked 18th in the USA Today poll and 24th in the Associated Press poll, returns to the site of one of the program’s biggest wins when it battles Gonzaga today at 3 p.m. (ESPN2) in the 4th annual Battle of Seattle at KeyArena.
Nevada is 11-1, while the Zags are 9-4 and trying to avoid a three-game losing streak for just the second time in Mark Few’s eight-year run as head coach. The Zags lost by 13 to Georgia in a neutral-court game and by seven to Duke in a neutral-court game at Madison Square Garden. Gonzaga did beat North Carolina earlier this year as well as Texas.
Nevada coach Mark Fox doesn’t like to dwell on the past, but he does admit the importance of the win historically.
“Sure it did (put us in the spotlight),” Fox said. “That was a special weekend for us.
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“That game, though, has nothing to do with this game. It’s two different teams. What happened in that game, execution, Xs and Os, is not going to have a lot of impact on what happens Saturday (today).”
It’s true. Only five players – Nick Fazekas, Kyle Shiloh and Marcelus Kemp – were on Nevada’s roster back then, and only Sean Mallon and Derek Raivio were on Gonzaga’s roster back in 2004.
The Zags have posted an impressive 136-25 record in the past five years, and despite a 9-4 record against some tough competition, Gonzaga is a dangerous team.
“Gonzaga is a terrific team, an outstanding team,” Fox said. “They’ve got terrific players. They are extremely well coached. They shoot the ball very well.
“They’ve always had great shooters. They have always been a very good offensive team. They could always put points on the board. You always knew they were able to do that.”
And, with the absence of Adam Morrison, the Zags are probably more balanced offensively.
Guard Derek Raivio, the Zags’ baby-faced assassin, leads the team in scoring at 19 a game. Raivio has 198 career 3-pointers. The Zags’ 6-11 Josh Heytvelt, who will match up with Fazekas, is next at 16.3. Guard Jeremy Pargo is also in double figures at 11.8 a game.
“They are not a one dimensional scoring team,” Fox said. “They have inside and outside scoring. We have to contain both.”
The Zags may get some inside help soon, as 6-10 David Burgess (knee) could return very soon.
Gonzaga, if it stays with its normal starting lineup, will be a shade bigger up front, as Mallon has a two-inch advantage over Denis Ikovlev, and Fazekas and Heytvelt are even at 6-11.
Nevada got 27 points and significant minutes from its young bench, and Fox hopes that carries over to today’s game.
“We need to get minutes from them off the bench, and we need them to be productive, too, whether it’s scoring, rebounding or defense. We can’t play guys 40 minutes.”
Freshmen Brandon Fields and Tyrone Hanson scored a career-best eight points each in the 89-69 win over Maine. David Ellis was a perfect 2-for-2 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line for six points in his stint.
Notes: Gonzaga is coming back from a nine-day layoff … It will be a homecoming for guards Lyndale Burleson and Kemp. Both played high school ball in the Seattle area, and no doubt will have plenty of fans in the stands … Raivio has scored 1,090 career points, ranking 23rd all-time … Pargo has a hot hand, hitting 14 of 25 floor shots in the last two games.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
NEVADA (11-1) vs. GONZAGA (9-4)
When: Today, 3 p.m.
Where: Key Arena in Seattle
Radio: ESPN Radio 630 AM, pregame at 2:30 p.m.
Probable starters: NEVADA – 6-11 Nick Fazekas (20-7, 12.7), 6-7 Denis Ikovlev (6.0, 4.1); G – 6-5 Marcelus Kemp (17.5, 3.9), 6-3 Ramon Sessions (13.0, 3.8), 6-3 Kyle Shiloh (8.7, 2.7); GONZAGA – F 6-11 Josh Heytvelt (16.3, 7.5), 6-9 Sean Mallon (7.5, 3.6); G 6-2 Jeremy Pargo (11.8, 4.2), 6-3 Derek Raivio (19.0, 4.0), 6-4 Matt Bouldin (8.5, 4.2)
Prediction: Nevada 63, Gonzaga 62