Vandals have been whacked by Pack
RENO – Lopsided games have been the norm since Nevada and Idaho started competing against each other in the Western Athletic Conference.
Nevada has won the last seven meetings, including three last season. The Pack won last year’s games (81-55, 84-68, 88-56) by an average margin of 24.6 per game.
Nevada coach Mark Fox expects a much more competitive contest when the Pack (9-6, 1-1) hosts the Vandals (4-11, 1-3) tonight (7 p.m., 630AM) at Lawlor Events Center.
This will be the Pack’s conference home opener because the game against Utah State was postponed because of inclimate weather and rescheduled for Feb. 11.
“They look to be a much-improved team,” Fox said Wednesday after Nevada’s practice. “They are more prepared for WAC play than the team that George (Pfeifer, Idaho coach) inherited.
“Jordan (Brooks) is a great competitor. They have a couple of guys that shoot the three-point shot (Mike Hall, Michael Crowell) and putting the ball in the hole. Luis Agosto gives them a physical presence to go along with (Darin) Nagle, who we assume is going to play.”
Fox probably shouldn’t assume anything when it comes to Nagle.
Nagle has missed the last couple of games with an injury, which Pfeifer refuses to disclose to the media. Trevor Morris, another sharp-shooting wing player, has also missed the last four games with a sore foot. Both are considered day-to-day.
Nagle hasn’t been much of a factor against Nevada, mostly because foul problems have limited his minutes to 18, 14 and 19, respectively.
Even if Nagle is healthy, he would have some problems with the length of sophomore center JaVale McGee, who leads the WAC in blocked shots at 3.1 a game.
“He has a great talent to block shots,” Fox said. “He’s been a little hesitant because of the goaltending calls. That’s probably helped become a better defender in other ways.”
As a team, Nevada blocks more than six shots a game. Demarshay Johnson blocks 1.3 shots a contest.
Fox is looking for his team to start showing some consistency in its defense, rebounding and foul shooting. In short, he wants consistency across the board from game to game.
Nevada’s 7-for-16 effort from the line cost it dearly in a 62-60 loss to San Jose State last Thursday. Nevada followed that up with an 18-for-21 performance against Hawaii in a 77-59 road win.
“It’s tied to mental concentration,” Fox said during Monday’s WAC teleconference. “The preparation the kids have, mental and physical, is inconsistent. It’s a sign of poor concentration or a lack of experience.”
This is the first of a two-game road swing for the Vandals, who play at Utah State on Saturday.
“This is a difficult road trip,” Pfeifer said. “There are no common threads between these two teams as far as what they do scheme-wise. Both can defend. We’re going to spend more time working on our offense this week and make sure we can score.”
The one common thread that Pfeifer left out is that both are difficult places to play, and when you grab a road win at Nevada or Utah State, it’s a huge deal.
Nevada has won 30 of its last 32 games at home. Dating back to the start of the 2003-04 season, Nevada has posted a 66-7 record at Lawlor. Nevada has won 13 consecutive WAC home games, including a perfect 8-0 last year.
Notes: Fox is one win shy of tying Len Stevens for career wins with 91. He is currently 90-24 in his three-plus years … Marcelus Kemp should move into the No. 2 spot for three-point field goals made. He currently has 184, one behind Jerry Hogan, who is at 185… Kemp has made his last 20 free throws, dating back to the second half of the Northern Iowa game.
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