Nevada to host Georgia
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – A year ago, Nevada defended its way to an 11-point win over Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to a putrid 27.6 percentage from the floor.
Nevada coach Mark Fox said the Bulldogs are much improved on the perimeter, and he expects a tough game when the 20th-ranked Pack host Georgia tonight (7:05 p.m.) at Lawlor Events Center in a nonconference men’s basketball game.
“They have so much more scoring and depth on the perimeter,” Fox said after Tuesday’s light workout. “They have so many more people that can score. They have a lot more depth.
“They have a lot of good outside players. We won’t see guys like that all year.”
The depth comes in the form of freshmen guards Billy Humphrey and Mike Mercer. Humphrey leads the team with a 13-point average and Mercer averages 10.5. Neither starts, but both play a little more than half a game.
They are just two of a tremendous freshman class for third-year coach Dennis Felton. The others are 6-9 forward Kendrick Johnson (2.1), 6-6 guard Terrance Woodbury (7.3) and 7-foot center Rashaad Singleton (2.0).
“They (the freshmen) have had a big impact,” Felton said. “They’ve all made good contributions. Billy Humphrey has been terrific and Mike Mercer is very athletic. Those two have gotten off to terrific starts. Woodbury has been out with an injury and Johnson has an ankle that has been giving him a lot of problems. Singleton is primarily a defensive player and rebounder. He leads the team in blocked shots (22).”
The Bulldogs still have returnees Steve Newman, Dave Bliss, Sundiata Gaines, Channing Toney and Levi Stukes, all returning starters.
“Stukes is a great player,” Fox said. “He can shoot the three.”
The 6-10 Bliss and the 6-9 Newman form a nice blend with the talented perimeter players. Johnson adds depth at the frontcourt spots.
Nevada, which is 3-0 at home this season, hasn’t played since blasting Seattle Pacific 83-57 on Dec. 13. In fact, Nevada players were finishing up finals on Monday.
“We’re physically fresher,” Fox said. “We’re a whole lot fresher than we were 10 days ago. I don’t know if I thought we’d win four of five road games. I don’t know if I’m completely surprised where we’re at. We’re making progress.”
“Our main focus has been defense and rebounding, and getting back in transition defense,” forward Nick Fazekas said. “We’ve struggled with that. We’ve had nine days to really get better. We have to come out and play our best tonight.”
Felton would just like to see his team bring up its level of play.
‘We made good progress until the last 10 days,” Felton said. “We’ve taken a few steps backwards. We have to start taking positive steps forward.
“They (Nevada) are better than last year. Having (Marcelus) Kemp is big. (Mo) Charlo is much more settled. When we played last year, it was only his second college game. We know Nick is a fantastic player.”
Fox is hoping sophomore point guard Ramon Sessions may play tonight, and Felton does notice a difference when he is in the game.
“(Lyndale) Burleson is more of a threat from 3-point range,” Felton said. “Sessions is a little more aggressive in the open court.”
Felton said it will take the best effort that Georgia has put forth this season to pull off an upset of Nevada.
“Nevada is such a powerful team,” Felton said. “They are powerful enough and do everything well. This team doesn’t have a weakness. They are well coached.”
“They are one of the best teams in the nation. They play hard, they are physical and they execute well offensively.”
Notes: Georgia’s Felton was one of the assistant coaches on Team USA when Fazekas played last year. That is the only link between the teams … A crowd of at least 10,000 is expected for tonight’s game, according to Nevada officials … The 7-1 start is the best since the 1978-79 squad won 10 of its first 11.