Nevada to host Colorado State
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Nevada’s three-game winning streak can be attributed to two things – playing at home and improvement as a team.
“The first few games we didn’t know how to play with each other,” Nevada’s senior guard Marcelus Kemp said. “Now, we’re all playing together and we’re all playing hard.
“It (playing at home) is a big confidence booster. We don’t lose too much here.”
The Wolf Pack hopes to make it four straight when it hosts Colorado State tonight (7:05 p.m/ESPN Radio 630 AM) at Lawlor Events Center.
“A great deal of our recent success is because the team is getting better,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “They (the players) are starting to figure out what they are capable of doing in a game.”
And, make no mistake about it, this is a team. Unselfishness has always been one of Nevada’s strength, and that’s been the case this year. Three of the starters – Kemp, Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields – all average at least 3.1 assists per game. Fields is the team leader at 3.7.
Right now, Nevada is a handful, and nobody knows that better than Colorado State coach Tim Miles, who has the Rams at 5-5 in his first year at the helm.
“Obviously they are well coached,” Miles said. “Mark Fox has done a nice job there.
“They have excellent length and athleticism. They have Marcelus Kemp and JaVale McGee and then that Fields kid. That’s a nice group.”
Those are the Pack’s top three scorers. Kemp is at 18.8, McGee 13.8 and Fields 13.3. Fields, the current WAC Player of the Week, is shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range and 48 percent overall from the floor. That is the best in both categories among the Pack’s perimeter players.
“I worked on my shot over the summer,” Fields said. “Coach (Doug) Novsek is always working with me on my shot. I’ve become better. I worked on my follow through.”
Miles is concerned about McGee’s presence inside, especially at the defensive end.
“He blocks shots and alters shot,” Miles said. “His impact in the paint you can’t put a value on that. He certainly has pro potential.”
McGee will face somebody just as big in 7-foot 260-pound Stuart Creason, who is averaging 12.8 points and 7 rebounds, respectively.
“Creason is an exceptional big man,” Fox said. “He might be the best 7-footer we’ve seen. He can run the floor and he can finish. He has a chance to play beyond the college level.”
Miles says Creason reminds him a little of a bigger Nick Fazekas, the Pack’s all-time leading scorer, who was drafted 34th overall by the Dallas Mavericks and is now with Tulsa in the NBA Developmental League.
“He’s like Nick athletically in that he has soft hands and shoots the ball,” Miles said. “When he gets the ball deep inside, he’s tough to stop.”
Creason is the Rams’ No. 2 threat. Junior guard Marcus Walker is averaging 15.7 a game. He had a Mountain West Conference best of 43 points in a Top of the World Classic game in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“He scores in a lot of ways,” Fox said. “He shoots the 3 and is quick in the open floor.”
Colorado State comes in 0-5 in road games. The Rams are 3-0 in neutral-court games, however, having beaten Oregon State, Tennessee State and Portland State in the Top of the World Tournament.
“It’s hard to win non-conference away games,” Miles said. “I think it’s unfortunate. They (younger players) don’t fully understand what they are up against.”
The Rams will find out that Lawlor is a tough place to play. Nevada has won 28 of its last 30. The Pack is 4-1 at home this season, its only loss coming against California.
Notes: This wraps up a four-game homestand. Nevada’s next two games are on the road – Dec. 22 at Northern Iowa in the BracketBuster return game and Dec. 27 at top-ranked North Carolina. Both games will be televised. The NIU game will be on KAME and the North Carolina game is on ESPN2 … McGee leads the WAC in blocked shots with an average of 3.22 a game, well ahead of Martin Iti of New Mexico State. As a team, Nevada averages 6.44 blocks per game, which is 16th in the nation.