Nevada travels to dangerous Fresno State
Appeal Sports Writer
FRESNO, Calif. – Armed with a one-game lead in the Western Athletic Conference and riding a four-game winning streak, 11th-ranked Nevada (21-1, 9-1) visits enigmatic Fresno State (16-7, 5-5) tonight at the Save Mart Center.
Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m., and local fans can watch the game on Channel 21.
The Bulldogs are a tough team to figure out. Athletically, they are one of the best in the WAC, but their play in recent weeks, three wins in their last eight games, hasn’t matched up.
And, to make matters worse, FSU coach Steve Cleveland booted senior Ja’Vance Coleman off the team on Monday for breaking team rules. Coleman, who averaged 17.5 last year, was barely scoring over 10 a game this year.
Still, Nevada coach Mark Fox knows how dangerous the Bulldogs can be.
“They are so dangerous at anytime,” Fox said when asked if the Bulldogs’ recent woes would make them even more dangerous. “I don’t know if they could get any more dangerous. I have a lot of respect for them. They have two great bookend forwards (Quinton Hosley and Dominic McGuire) that are as good as anybody.
“It’s a difficult place to play and they are a difficult team to defend against. They attack you from every angle. They shoot a lot of 3s and they shoot a good percentage.”
It’s the 3-point ball, and the Bulldogs’ shooting in general, that has failed them. Over the last four games, Fresno State is shooting 37 percent overall and only 27 percent from 3-point range, including a 1-for-24 effort against Hawai’i in a 54-42 home loss.
“We’ve gone through a period where we have really struggled with our shooting whether it’s a an open 3-pointer or at the basket,” Cleveland said. “We’re not taking bad shots. I think a lot of the shots we are taking are open shots. It’s not like we’re hunting shots. As concerned as I am about 3-point shooting, I’m more concerned about those that are at the basket.”
Though Coleman could be an explosive 3-point shooter, the Bulldogs will now rely on Tyson Parker and Eddie Miller to pick up the slack in Coleman’s absence.
Miller, who has the quickest release on the Fresno State team, went 3-for-5 from 3-point range against Idaho, a nice bounce-back after a dismal 0-for-10 effort against Hawai’i.
“He (Miller) shot it better,” Cleveland said.
Surprisingly, the best 3-point shooter on the Bulldogs’ squad is 6-9 center Hector Hernandez, who has benefited through the penetration efforts of Fresno State’s perimeter players. Hernandez is third on the team at 11.3 a game, and he has enjoyed good success in the past against the Pack. Hernandez has hit 44 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“Hector is a great shooter,” Fox said. “I think coming into our last game (with Fresno State) he was shooting 53 percent. We don’t play a lot of teams with a center who shoots the 3 like that.”
And, Cleveland said he won’t have his team stop shooting 3-pointers. He did say he’d like to work the ball in the post more, perhaps work on early entry passes.
“We’re at somewhat of a disadvantage because our 6-6 guys would be guarded by a 6-11 guy,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland pointed out that some players haven’t been as consistent shooting the 3-ball as they were last season. Coleman went from 39 percent to 26 percent and Hosley has dropped from 34 percent to 31 percent.
“Since we played Nevada, we’ve played a little better,” Cleveland said. “We’re still going to shot 20 to 25 3s because that is how we play.”
Meanwhile, Nevada needs to work on its defensive rebounding. The Pack, although only being out-rebounded three times this year, has consistently given up double-digit offensive rebounds since conference play started.
“I think when Nick was out it was a really huge issue because we’re without our best rebounder,” Fox said. “We haven’t been perfect. We’ve been better the last couple of games. We’re not as good as we were a couple of years ago. We’re making progress though.”
Notes: Fox said that he hopes the illness and injury bug is behind his team as it starts the stretch run. Fazekas’ ankle injury was the only physical injury, but the bulk of the players suffered from the flu bug … The 9-1 start in conference play is the best since Nevada entered the WAC … Fazekas is 50 points away from passing ex-BYU star Devin Durrant and Fennis Dembo of New Mexico and moving into fourth place on the all-time WAC scoring list. He needs 31 rebounds to pass Tech’s Paul Millsap and move into fourth on the all-time rebounding list.