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New players soaking it in

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY – For most of the Nevada players, the NCAA Tournament is old hat.

For Demarshay Johnson, Lyndale Burleson and Dennis Ikovlev, it’s an exciting new experience, one that no doubt they will treasure for the rest of their lives.

“It’s been a great experience,” Johnson said from the podium where he was seated with teammates Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp. “Just being around this atmosphere and some of the best teams in the country and getting to play on the grand stage. It’s very exciting, and I’m happy to be here.”

Johnson has improved immensely as the season has gone along. He is currently averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per outing, including a 22-point effort against New Mexico State and a 12-point effort against the Aggies.

While Johnson has been front and center much of the season, Ikovlev has played a minor role. The 6-7 JC transfer is averaging 1.8 points and 1 rebound a game.

While Johnson, Marcelus Kemp and Nick Fazekas talked from the podium, Ikovlev sat in the cramped lockerroom and listened to music on his I Pod.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Ikovlev, who played in 23 games. “It’s crazy. I’m sure it will be different once we hit the floor.

“I thought I would play more. Mo (Charlo) and Marcelus (Kemp) are quick and they are good players. I learned from them.”

Against UC Davis and Seattle Pacific, Ikovlev scored eight points in each game. Other than that his playing time wasn’t much.

“I have to compete harder in practice and play (better) defense,” Ikovlev said. “I just have to get better defensively.”

Burleson, who wasn’t cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse last year, averages a bucket a game. His forte his defense. Next to Kyle Shiloh, he is the Pack’s best backcourt defender.

He scored a career-high 12 points in the Pack’s 65-53 win over Louisiana Tech in early February.

NOT AGAIN

Once again, Nevada players were asked about being a fifth seed and the history surrounding the 5-12 game.

Historically, the 5-12 game has been the source of many upsets over the years.

“We’re not really concerned about it,” Nevada forward Nick Fazekas said. “It has happened every year. But to me it’s not really about seeding, just that we are playing Montana. They are the 12 seed and we are fifth, but that doesn’t really mean anything. We don’t look at it that way. History is history, and that’s the way it goes.”

RECORD FOR PACIFIC

Like Nevada, Pacific is in its third straight NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have won in the first round each of the last two years, knocking off Providence and Pitt, respectively.

The 13th-seeded Tigers drew No. 4 Boston College of the ACC in today’s first round (9:40 a.m., CBS).

Pacific coach Bob Thomason said Boston College is the toughest of his three opening-round games.

“Until you play somebody you really don’t have a true feel for what they are,” Thomason said. “Two years ago we played Providence. The only reason I thought the matchup was good was because they were a zone team. I looked at our guys and they were real comfortable.

“Last year against Pitt, I didn’t think we could rebound with them. Again I looked on the court and they were comfortable. I’ll know at the beginning of the game how we’re looking. Boston College is a great team. Coming into the tournament they are probably the best team we’ve faced. They are smart and play a great brand of ball. They have good discipline and have great size.”

Don’t rule out the possibility of an upset, however.

“We have to make sure we have a great game,” Thomason said. “There is no way without a great game that we are going to have a chance to win. We understand that. On the other hand, we so have some good players. If our players play really well, then you always have a chance.”

A MEDIA DARLING

There are always strange questions at press conference’s, but the first one directed at Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison was idiotic.

Morrison was immediately asked about his mustache.

“My mustache is pretty adolescent,” Morrison said. “I’ve always wanted to have facial hair and this is the first thing I’ve grown. I’ll go with what I can get right now. I’m from Spokane, so a mustache is all right.”

Morrison said he wouldn’t take any vitamins to help make his mustache grow.

Morrison says the exposure he’s gotten is nice, but he also thinks his teammates should get more recognition.

“You know JP (Batista) is averaging 20 and 9,” Morrison said. “I’m on SportsCenter sometimes, and I may struggle and score 24. That’s the only thing I don’t like. At Gonzaga, we are a team, and we are a team first. I wish our guys would get a little more exposure.”

BATISTA UPDATE

Batista, who injured his thigh during the West Coast Conference Tournament, practiced yesterday with the Zags.

“We had practice this morning and it feels a lot better today,” Batista said. “So far it feels great. I want to say 90 percent.”

SECOND-ROUND BLUES

Boston College has won 141 games since the 2000-01 season, but hasn’t made it to a regional (third round) since 1994.

“We have the same mindset from the beginning of the year,” said Louis Hinnant, the Eagles’ talented point guard. “After we lost last year, our main focus was to try to get past the second round. We have to look at Pacific first and realize they are a dangerous team that has had success in this tournament. That is all we are focused on right now.”

“We had a great ACC Tournament and now we are looking forward to Pacific tomorrow (Today),” said Craig Smith, BC’s 6-7 250-pound forward. “We can’t worry about those things. We have to worry about the game tomorrow.”

ACQUIRED TASTE

Boston College coach Al Skinner loves 6-7 forward Jared Dudley, who averages 16 a game, but it wasn’t a total shock that he wasn’t heavily recruited.

“In all honesty, I think Jared is an acquired taste,” Skinner said. “You have to watch him for a long period of time to appreciate what he does. There is nothing he does that is going to wow you.

“He’s not tremendously athletic. He’s not a tremendous shooter. He’s not a tremendous rebounder. He’s not tremendous at anything, but he’s very, very good at all of those things.”

DAVIS SPEAKS OUT

Indiana’s Mike Davis, who stepped down as Indiana’s head coach on Feb. 16, said his resignation didn’t take weight off his shoulders as many would expect.

The Hoosiers are 18-11 entering their first-round match-up with San Diego State, coached by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher.

“It’s a weight off their (the players) shoulders,” Davis said. “The players are having fun and enjoying the games. It’s been a treat for me to watch.

“I’m not leaving because of wins and losses. I think that is what people don’t understand. When I stepped down, I was 13-10, but when I made my decision to step down it was before the UConn game and we were ranked 15th or 16th. If we won a national championship, it wouldn’t change my decision. It would be what’s best for the program and kids.”

Two Indiana players – Marco Killingsworth and Marshall Strickland – said things have changed since Davis’ announcement.

“I think we’ve really come together as a team, and that’s what has helped us get through the tough times,” Strickland said. “These last couple of weeks we have played good basketball and it’s paid off.”

“You know what the situation is, you know he’s not coming back,” Killingsworth said. “We just put that behind and just started winning. He’s just letting us play now.”