Something’s got to give between Nevada, Akron
December 21, 2006
Nevada has won eight straight road games, and Akron has won 12 straight at home.
Something or someone will have to give today when 20th-ranked Nevada , 9-1, visits Akron at 4 p.m. (KAME-TV) at Rhodes Arena in a return of last year’s BracketBuster game.
The Zips are 30-1 at Rhodes Arena under the tutelage of Keith Dambrot, who is 49-22 since taking the helm of the Akron program three years ago.
“We are going to play against a very good basketball team that is playing extremely well right now,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “We will have our hands full.”
The Zips return four starters from last year’s team that was embarrassed in Reno 88-61, and no doubt the Zips would like to avenge that loss.
“They didn’t play well and we played pretty good,” swingman Marcelus Kemp said in looking back to last year’s game. “Anytime you lose and there is a return game, they’re going to want to play their best. We’re going to play our best, too.”
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Last year, Nevada held Romeo Travis to only 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in his 24-minute stint. He was the only Akron player to reach double figures, and the Zips shot just 32 percent from the floor.
“I remember he didn’t play well against us last year,” Nck Fazekas said. “It was an off night for him. I really have no idea what he does or what he can do. Hopefully he’ll play better so we will get to see what he can do.”
Travis missed the Zips’ last home game, a 79-44 win over Saint Francis earlier this week, because he violated a team rule.
Besides Travis, guards Dru Joyce and Nick Dials are both averaging a shade more than 10 points a game, and Jeremiah Woods averages 10.9 a contest.
“We’ve been playing OK,” Dambrot said. “Over time, I think we’ll get better.”
Nevada will have a size advantage throughout the line-up, though not a huge one except for the middle where Fazekas could have at least a four-inch advantage depending on who Dambrot puts on him. Even JaVale McGee and David Ellis will have a distinct advantage whenever they are in the game.
Fazekas’ offense has tailed off in the last few games, but he’s still averaging over 20 a game while pulling down a nation-best 12.8 rebounds a contest.
“We’re going to play 6-6 guys on 7-footers,” Dambrot said, referring to Fazekas, Ellis and McGee. “The size is what will kill us. We’ve had trouble going against the big guys in the past. All of them are just solid.
“With Nevada, we can’t be conservative and shy, we have to go after them. I’m not going to play that way (conservative). I’m playing to win. You have to play a variety of different ways against them. You can’t always play fast and you can’t always play slow.”
Lucky for Dambrot that Nevada rarely plays Ellis and Fazekas together or McGee and Fazekas together for long stretches of time. That could change if McGee becomes more consistent at the defensive end of the floor.
Akron has never beaten a ranked team in Dambrot’s reign, and he’d certainly like to change that tonight. They lost 111-85 at then No. 5 Louisville last year, and dropped a 113-111 overtime decision to then No. 19 Xavier back in 1996.
“This game can give our program a chance to break out and become a dominating mid-major,” Dambrot said. “Nevada is a tremendous team. It’s a huge test for our team.
“They have a lot of good players besides Fazekas. The others have pretty much taken a backseat to him. The point guard (Ramon Sessions) is a tough go-to guy, and they have good shooters at the 2 and 3 spots (Kemp and Kyle Shiloh. They have a lot of good pieces.”
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
NEVADA (9-1) AT AKRON (7-2)
When: Today, 4 p.m.
Where: Rhodes Arena (5,500)
TV: KAME, Channel 21
Radio: ESPN Radio 630 AM
Probable starters: NEVADA – F Nick Fazekas (20.6, 12.8), Dennis Ikovlev (5.8, 4.4); G Marcelus Kemp (18.0, 3.9), Kyle Shiloh (8.8, 2.6), Ramon Sessions (12.1, 3.9); AKRON – F Romeo Travis (15.3, 5.3), Nate Linhart (5.8, 2.8), Jeremiah Woods (10.9, 7.5); G Dru Joyce (10.1, 2.7), Nick Dials (10.2, 3.0)
Prediction: Nevada 65, Akron 61