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Nevada to host Hawai’i

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Hawai’i basketball coach Riley Wallace has a dilemma, and it’s one that every coach on Nevada’s schedule faces.

How do you defend Nevada’s talented junior forward Nick Fazekas? Straight up? Double-team? Straight up with help from the weakside?

The Rainbow Warriors tried to play Fazekas straight when they were in a man-to-man defense, and Fazekas scored a career-high 37 points in a 73-69 overtime loss to Hawai’i back on Jan. 5.

It will be interesting to see what kind of defenses Wallace employs tonight at 7:05 when Nevada (14-5, 4-3) hosts Hawai’i (10-6, 4-2) at Lawlor Events Center in a key Western Athletic Conference game.

“I started Sensley (on Fazekas) and he got a quick foul, so I got him out of there,” Wallace said Thursday afternoon. “We tried to play him straight up. I think he got tired toward the end because he had to do so much. That was a good ballgame.

“It would be better if we can stop them all. He (Fazekas) has inside, outside game. We’ve got to get outside on them and still be able to cover Fazekas. We’ve been doing that (type of defense) pretty well.”

Other than Fazekas, Hawai’i’s interior defense was exceptional. The Rainbow Warriors blocked 13 shots in the overtime win over Nevada, five by 6-foot-9 forward Matt Gipson and four by 6-7 center Ahmet Gueye.

“He (Gueye) plays with a lot of energy,” Wallace said. “He’s long and he can block shots. He gives us a presence we haven’t had in the post. He started 1-for-7 the other night, but overall, he’s been playing pretty well.

“(Matt) Lojeski has been playing well. He got nine rebounds the other night and scored 20 against Fresno State. He’s been very consistent for us.”

Lojeski, who scored 12 points in the first meeting between the teams, is averaging 14.1 per game. Sensley is averaging 16.9. Both of those guys present tough matchups for Nevada.

Nevada’s recent struggles, including losses to Fresno State and Utah State, doesn’t surprise Wallace, but not for the reasons you think. He has the utmost respect for Nevada’s program.

“Sometimes you lose a game or two and lose that edge. Basketball is a funny game with kids,” Wallace said. “When you win, everybody is having fun and has a lot of energy. As soon as you lose a few, it changes the game. Kids get tired easier and some don’t work as hard. A win could re-energize them.”

Fazekas agreed.

“This could be a steppingstone for us,” he said. Fazekas knows that time is of the essence. He and the rest of the Pack players know they have to string together a few more wins to help their chances to make a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Nevada coach Mark Fox knows it will be a huge test. He’s aware of the dangerous Lojeski, loves the length of Gueye who made Nevada’s life miserable the first time around and has a ton of respect for Sensley.

“Hawai’i is a very good basketball team,” Fox said. “They are a terrific executing team.”

Kyle Shiloh is looking forward to the matchup.

“I don’t know that much about Hawai’i (now),” Shiloh said. “I know they are a good team. We’ll see if anything has changed on the scouting report the coaches give us from the first time we played them.”

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