Nevada to face Idaho | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada to face Idaho

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

MOSCOW, Idaho – Armed with the best record in the country among Division I teams, 10th-ranked Nevada starts a three-game road swing with a Western Athletic Conference match-up at the University of Idaho.

Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. at Memorial Gym. The game is being played at Memorial, which is the Vandals’ practice court, because of the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival which takes over the Kibbie Dome/Cowan Spectrum.

Nevada, 24-2 overall, is the only team in Division I men’s basketball with only two losses. Wisconsin had only two losses entering the week, but lost at Michigan State on Tuesday night.

“As far as I know, this is the highest ranked team we have ever had play on the University of Idaho campus,” Idaho coach George Pfeifer said. “This is such a tremendous opportunity and you look forward to the chance to go out and play a team like this and find success. I can’t control that, but that’s what I hope takes place. It’s scary for us. They have so much balance. Everybody talks about Nick (Fazekas) and they should. They have a lot of weapons. They are a difficult team to play because you can’t say you are going to allow them to do this to take away that. They have more talent than we do. The biggest thing they have going for them is a tremendous mentality. They find ways to get it done.”

Fazekas leads Pack scorers at 20.6 followed by Marcelus Kemp 17.9, Ramon Sessions 13.2 and Kyle Shiloh 9.7. Shiloh is scoring almost a point higher in conference play.

Idaho has lost nine straight games, but has been pretty tough at home. The Vandals have lost six games by 38 points, and five of those losses have been by 20 points. The only time Idaho hasn’t been in a game at home was when it lost 75-57 to Boise State. The Vandals’ only conference win at home came against Hawai’i, 76-75.

Those numbers weren’t lost on Nevada coach Mark Fox.

“I do feel they have continued to get better,” Fox said. “They go out and lose to Fresno in overtime, and they lost a close one to San Jose State. They have gotten better. Getting (Darin) Nagle for the second semester really helped. They’ve gotten better each week, and that’s the sign of great coaching.

“I don’t know much about the facility. I don’t know why we’re playing there. I don’t know where we’re playing.”

Pfeifer was asked if playing at Memorial, which is the size of an average high school gym, would be an advantage

“In the day, they talked about putting 4,000 fans in there,” Pfeifer said. “I would rather play in the Spectrum, no question. It (Memorial) is our practice gym. It’s a pretty good practice facility. I don’t know how much of an advantage it is. Once the ball goes up, it’s going to be a basketball game.”

Pfeifer said last weekend’s loss to UC Riverside was the first time where he felt the extended losing streak had caught up to his team.

“There was a flatness to the way we played,” Pfeifer said. “It wasn’t everybody. I’m not going to paint everybody with the same brush. We didn’t play with energy. It’s not acceptable and it’s frustrating. The one thing we can control is our effort. The guys need to understand it’s not acceptable.”

The Vandals have two good offensive weapons in 6-10 forward Nagle, who averages 10.6 points and seven rebounds per game, and 6-foot guard Keoni Watson, who averages 17 a game.

Watson is coming off a 27-point effort against UC Riverside, and no doubt he’ll see plenty of Shiloh and Lyndale Burleson, who are Nevada’s best on-the-ball defenders.

“Keoni played hard at both ends of the court,” Pfeifer said. “He went 9-for-16, and he was picking them up just past half court.”

While Watson is important, it’s critical that Nagle stays out of foul trouble. Back on Jan. 6 (81-55 Nevada win), Nagle played only 19 minutes and went 2-for-12 from the field.

“Certainly we don’t have the depth Nevada has on the front line,” Pfeifer said. “We absolutely need Darin’s presence in there. He’s second in the conference in blocked shots. His length forces people to shoot over him. It gives us another line of defense.”

Notes: Nevada has a seven-game winning streak and has won 17 of their last 18 games. The only loss in that span was a road setback at New Mexico State … Fazekas is fourth in the country in rebounding at 11.5 per game … Nevada could clinch a share of the regular-season championship with two wins this week.

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