Nevada to face Saint Mary’s | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada to face Saint Mary’s

MORAGA, Calif. – Nevada puts its four-game winning streak on the line today against Saint Mary’s College.

Tip-off is set for 4:05 p.m. at tiny McKeon Pavilion (3,500), and the game can be seen locally on KREN-TV.

Nevada (10-1) is 4-0 in road games this year, not including a neutral court loss to UCLA in The Wooden Classic. SMC (5-5) is 5-2 at home, but is coming off a tough four-point loss to St. Joseph’s on Wednesday.

“Saint Mary’s won 25 games last year, and return their best player,” said Nevada coach Mark Fox, referring to 6-foot-10 forward Daniel Kickert. “He would be the best player if it wasn’t for Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) being in the league. We have to be ready to play.”

Kickert, a 6-10 forward from Australia, is shooting 48 percent from the floor, including 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I could certainly make an argument for him,” SMC coach Randy Bennett said. “He’s a great player. I don’t think he’s played to the top of his game yet this year, but he’s still getting 17 and 5 1/2 (points and rebounds). He’s shooting good numbers. He gives the team confidence.

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“He is the best I’ve coached at that position. He’s so skilled at shooting the ball. He’s a little like (Nick) Fazekas except that Fazekas is longer.”

Kickert is the only SMC player averaging double figures, though small forward Brett Collins (9.4) and UNLV transfer John Winston (9.1) are close. Winston just became eligible on Dec. 10, and has been the starter at point guard ever since.

The Gaels lost four starters from a year ago, and Bennett said the team changes daily.

“I think we’re playing OK,” Bennett said. “We had our team change so rapidly from last year. We had four returning starters to begin last year, and we were able to be good right away. I knew who my top scorers were going to be.

“Other than (Daniel) Kickert, I don’t know this year. A couple of our freshmen (Ian O’Leary and Diamon Simpson) have come on. After 10 games, our team is still evolving.”

Simpson, a 6-7 freshman, scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. O’Leary is averaging 5.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. Reda Rhalimi, the Gaels’ 7-foot center from Morocco by way of Daytona Beach Community College, scored a career-high 13 points in 13 minutes against St. Joseph’s.

Bennett is impressed with Nevada after watching the Pack on tape.

“They’re a really good defensive team,” Bennett said. “I’m wondering how we’re going to score. They’re a very good rebounding team. It’s hard to get a second shot against them.

“They are a pretty complete team. They have great size. They have guys that can score in Kemp (14.2) and Charlo (13.5), and then of course there is Fazekas (20.1). They are like we were last year. They don’t have a lot of new guys playing big roles.”

Charlo is only 4 for 13 in his last two games, but Fox is confident he’ll bounce back. Fazekas has scored 40 points in the last two games, hitting 14 of 23 from the floor.

Again, Fox has had little time to prepare. With three games this week, Fox and his staff only had yesterday to prepare for the Gaels, who reached the West Coast Conference post-season tournament finals last year. That hasn’t seemed to bother the Pack thus far. They have been a solid road team ever since Fox took the reins from Trent Johnson.

Notes: The Gaels have played a solid schedule with games against Colorado, St. Joseph’s, Rutgers and Southeast Louisiana and Arizona … Bennett said he also struggled putting together a schedule, and he ended up hosting two tournaments in six days … This is the start of a three-game road swing for the Pack, who open the Western Athletic Conference season next week with road games at Hawai’i on Thursday night and at San Jose State Saturday afternoon … Nevada is 7-0 this year in games decided by 10 points or less. Nevada was 14-4 a year ago in games decided by 10 points or less.

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