Coaches say Pack in for a tussle
By Darrell Moody
RENO – Jerome Jenkins, Sacramento State basketball coach, and Boise State assistant coach Andy McClouskey know all about Montana’s basketball team. They both know a little about the Nevada Wolf Pack, too.
Jenkins’ Hornets and McClouskey’s Broncos are teams that played Montana and Nevada this year. Nevada beat Sac State 82-74 in its season-opener back in November, and the Hornets lost twice to Montana, the Big Sky champs, 73-71 and 84-79.
Boise State opened its season with a 90-69 win over Montana, and was swept by Nevada during the Western Athletic Conference regular season.
Though he refused to make a prediction, Jenkins offered some insight on the Nevada-Montana match-up, which takes place Thursday at noon on CBS in Salt Lake City at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at the University of Utah.
“It’s a good draw for both schools,” Jenkins said. “If I was Montana, I’d be excited about playing Nevada and playing a WAC school period.
“Last year, Montana drew a Pac-10 school (Washington, 88-77 loss). I think their chances are a lot better in the first round (this year).
“Nevada is very, very good. They could go into the Pac-10 and compete. They are a lot like the Pac-10 teams the past few years. They are one of the top schools on the West Coast.”
McClouskey also likes the matchup.
“I think first of all, like all first-round games with the type of season the teams have had, it has the potential to be a very good matchup. On paper, Nevada’s players are better. If the teams played 10 times, Nevada would win the majority of the games.
“From an athletic standpoint, Montana doesn’t have athletic players like Marcelus Kemp and Mo Charlo. They play very hard.
“They (Montana) are a scary team to play. They have some impressive wins, especially winning the way they did at Loyola-Marymount. They beat Trent (Johnson, Stanford head coach) by 19 and they won at Drake. I don’t care what league they play in. If you can win 23 games in a place like Montana, you’re a good team.”
Jenkins said that the Grizzlies take after their coach, former NBA star Larry Krystkowiak, who is 41-18 the past two seasons, and has led the team to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
“They are a physical team,” Jenkins said. “They run when they can, but they are very good in the half court. They do a good job of getting the shots they want.”
The Sac State coach said the Grizzlies take on their coach’s personality. Krystkowiak has passed on his hard-nose mentality to his players.
“They believe in what they’re doing,” Jenkins said. “They’re not afraid; not in awe of Nevada. They believe they can go in and win.”
McClouskey especially likes guards Virgil Matthews and Kevin Criswell. Matthews averages 10 points a game and Criswell, the team’s best 3-point shooter, averages 16.5 and shoots 48.5 percent from the floor.
“Criswell is a good player,” McClouskey said. “Virgil has been through it. Criswell is a really good college basketball player.”
Both coaches agreed that Montana doesn’t have a player anywhere near as good as 6-11 Nick Fazekas, who enters the game averaging 21.8 a game. Fazekas is the two-time WAC Player of the Year.
McClouskey said Fazekas will get bumped around a little bit and pushed out of his comfort zone.
No matter. Fazekas is a clever player and can score many different ways as he proved during the season. And, guys like Kyle Shiloh and Kemp can help loosen up opposing defenses by hitting some 3-pointers.
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