Wednesday, March 4, 2009

San Jose State at Nevada on Thursday

Here's a great photo from Ray Barbour (which will bring back memories of the last seconds against Hawaii the other night). We're undecided: should the WAC decree all games from here on out be played as shirts and skins, with San Jose State insisting on being the latter or should the Spartans employ tearaway jerseys.

On to the preview:

Success is a spoiler. Just ask Mark Fox. His Nevada men's basketball 'franchise' has enjoyed a run like no other in the Western Athletic Conference and such has elevated the expectations of many Wolf Pack fans into the portion of the stratosphere scientists call 'the unreal' -- the strange place that warps the views of all who inhabit it.

Some of the Nevada fans have apparently developed a presumption that the WAC is theirs and that the other squads are allowed residency based on the blessing of the Pack.

It hasn't mattered that Nick Fazekas graduated. Or that JaVale McGee departed after his sophomore season and Ramon Sessions at the conclusion of his junior year. As for the NCAA granting of six years (due to injuries) to complete four seasons of eligiblity for Marcelus Kemp (he's 25 now) well, that's ancient history to the Reno rabid.

Their mantra is simple: win now.

Time and patience for player development, well, that's only applicable to the conference also-rans.

Two steps ahead, one step, that's not a Nevada thing.

Moving relentlessly forward...yes, that's the only known and acceptable direction for the Silver and Black.

Lounging around the Mount Olympus neighborhood, away from the conference riff-raff, is the sole and rightful place to be.

Granted, there are also many Nevada fans who understand the challenges in rebuilding and accept that the progress line isn't always a straight or a continuous one. Call them the reasonables. But they generally don't bother with writing letters-to-the-editor or living life on-line via message boards...generally because they have lives...which Nevada athletics is a part of but not a seemingly life-and-death, oh-so-serious matter. We could say it's the nattering nabobs of negativism versus the Silent Majority but boy does that bring back some awful memories from the 1970s.

It was a-l-m-o-s-t a tale of two halves but Dickens would have haltingly penned it something like this if he was covering the contest: "It was the worst of times, it was sort of the best of moments..." as Nevada had it's way the initial 20 minutes and actually put the game away then owning a 42-23 halftime lead.

At the 11:57 mark, Nevada led 23-10. With 7:35 on the clock, San Jose State cut the deficit to 10 at 30-20. But with 3:20 remaining, it was back to 17 at 38-21.

In that opening period, the Wolf Pack's Joey Shaw -- entering the game 4-24 from three-point range in league play -- enjoyed a Shaw-shooting-redemption by nailing 4-5 from long distance. He had 16 points at the half and finished the game with 23 -- a career high. Nevada made two thirds of its shot attempts in the first 20 minutes.

A pair of treys from Robert Owens cut the deficit to 11 -- 46-35 -- at the 17 minute mark but Nevada refused to budge any further.

The Spartans weren't necessarily missing the huge offensive role Adrian Oliver usually plays -- he sat out the game with an ankle injury -- however it certainly was a factor. But it was more the defense again that did SJSU in the most as the Wolf Pack shot 33-53 -- 63% -- as a team.

For the game, Owens led the Spartans with 17 points, buoyed by 5-9 three-point shooting. C.J. Webster added 15 points.

Nevada managed a startling nine blocked shots and rebounding turned out to be about even -- 30 for the Pack and 28 for the Spartans, including 16 offensive boards.

Jan 03 Idaho 73 - 78 (L)
Jan 08 @ New Mexico State 79 - 71 (W) OT
Jan 10 @ Louisiana Tech 67 - 64 (W)
Jan 15 Boise State 77 - 63 (W)
Jan 17 Fresno State 65 - 60 (W)
Jan 22 Hawaii 74 - 63 (W)
Jan 29 @ Utah State 61 - 72 (L)
Jan 31 @ Idaho 69 - 65 (W)
Feb 05 Louisiana Tech 75 - 78 (L)
Feb 07 New Mexico State 60 - 62 (L)
Feb 12 @ San Jose State 80 - 68 (W)
Feb 14 @ Hawaii 47 - 46 (W)

Feb 20 Virginia Commonwealth 71 - 70 (W) BracketBuster

Feb 26 @ Fresno State 66 - 68 (L)
Feb 28 Utah State 84 - 71 (W)


Nevada is coming off a home win against Utah State where the Pack shot 51% for the game, earned 33 free throws and committed just four turnovers.

*** Note that Ahyaro Phillips, 6-8 210, started in place of Dario Hunt in the Utah State game. He played 22 minutes while Hunt was in for 19. It was the first start of the season for Phillips, who had been averaging 8.1 minutes a contest in league play

Dario Hunt 6-8 230 -- he's a shotblocker deluxe, very raw defensively

Luke Babbitt 6-9 225 -- he hasn't set the league on fire but certainly has produced excellent numbers for a freshman, can play inside and shoot from three-point range

Malik Cooke 6-6 200 -- call him Mr. Glue because he will have points, rebounds, steals, etc; across the board at game's end

Armon Johnson 6-3 195 -- selected by the coaches in the pre-season as the expected Player of the Year, Johnson has come around in the last set of games

Lyndale Burleson 6-3 190 -- he can't shoot but he understands the system and works defensively


Brandon Fields 6-4 185 -- This has been a relatively lost season for Fields, beginning with a suspension and followed by inconsistent play. His shooting has really suffered.

Joey Shaw
6-6 205 -- The Spartan killer in the game at Walt McPherson Court

Ahyaro Phillips 6-8 210 -- A superb athlete who needs added strength and bulk.

THE NEVADA ROSTER (alphabetical and by position)

Lyndale Burleson G 6-3 190 senior
Brandon Fields G 6-4 185 junior
London Giles G 6-3 180 freshman
Armon Johnson G 6-3 195 sophomore
Ray Kraemer G 6-4 200 junior

Luke Babbitt F 6-9 225 freshman
Adam Carp F 6-7 200 sophomore
Malik Cooke F 6-6 200 sophomore
Dario Hunt F 6-8 230 freshman
Ahyaro Phillips F 6-8 210 freshman
Richie Phillips F 6-7 220 junior
Joey Shaw F 6-6 205 junior


*** Joey Shaw, who entered the game against San Jose State shooting 4-24 from three-point range and inexplicably made five of eight long range attempts, has gone 3-7 since then but is still mired at 32% in league action. (0-0 -- Hawaii, 0-2 -- Virginia Commonwealth in the BB game, 2-2 -- Fresno State, 1-3 -- Utah State)

*** Nevada is shooting 43% in the WAC, holding opponents to 42%. But there's a big difference in three point accuracy: 32% for the Wolf Pack to 40% for its collective opponents

*** Mark Fox's team is out-boarding its conference foes by four a game

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