Pack shoots for third win against Bulldogs in WAC tourney opener
By Darrell Moody
Appeal Sports Writer
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Some pundits say it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in a season.
Nevada coach Mark Fox doesn’t necessarily believe in that theory.
“We’ve done it before,” Fox said on the eve of the Pack’s tussle against Fresno State (5 p.m./KAME). “The first two have nothing to do with this game.”
In each of the last two seasons, Nevada has beaten Idaho three straight times, including a win each season at the WAC Tournament.
Nevada beat Fresno State by 12 at Lawlor Events Center, and then subdued the Bulldogs by 13 last weekend in Fresno.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs are a tough guard because of the offensive explosiveness of point guard Kevin Bell (18.5) and shooting guard Eddie Miller (15.2), and the outside shooting of power forward Hector Hernandez, who averages 9.7.
Bell is averaging 17 a game against the Pack, but is only shooting 32 percent from the field. Miller is averaging 14 a game in the two meetings, but shooting 37 percent, including less than 20 percent from 3-point range.
Armon Johnson has done a creditable job against Bell, while Brandon Fields and Lyndale Burleson have been very effective against Miller.
“They have done a nice job,” Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. “We have to do a better job of helping Eddie get a little bit of space to get his shot off. Kevin missed about five layups. I don’t know if it was Senior Night stuff or what.”
Bell’s problems might have had a lot to do with 7-foot-1 JaVale McGee, the leading shot blocker in the WAC. Bell likes to shoot the floaters, and McGee made him alter a few shots during the course of both games this season.
Fox said that defense and rebounding are two keys to winning games away from home, and because of Fresno State’s style of play, Nevada must be very disciplined.
Cleveland freely admits that it will take a great effort for his undersized team to pull off an upset.
“We made some mistakes on defense, and we didn’t have attention to detail,” Cleveland said. “To beat Nevada we have to pay attention to detail for 40 minutes and play very well.”
And, much of that attention to detail should center around McGee and Marcelus Kemp. The two combined for 48 points (Kemp had 25, McGee 23) last weekend in Fresno, including 34 in the second half.
“We don’t have an answer for Kemp,” Cleveland said. “We did a better job this last time on their other two guards (Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields).
“McGee was pretty special that night (11 for 17). We have to get him off the block. The times we did that he still make shots. It’s not a great match-up for us. Kemp and McGee were the difference the last time. If he (McGee) plays like that, he won’t be here next year. I’m sure that’s not what Mark (Fox) wants to hear.”