Having lost at home just once since mid-December, Nevada (10-15, 7-5 in WAC play) is certainly looking forward to returning to Lawlor Events Center on Saturday night to entertain the Silver and Blue faithful. They Pack will host UC-Irvine (11-16, 4-9 in Big West play) in the annual ESPN Bracketbuster game. Tip-Off is scheduled for 2:05 PM.
It will be Nevada’s eighth consecutive appearance in the Bracketbusters, with the Pack boasting a solid 5-2 record in those games. Last year the Wolf Pack lost a heartbreaker on the road to Missouri State, 62-60.
The Wolf Pack return to Reno following a split on their most recent road trip where they stole a game against the San Jose Spartans in overtime and nearly pulled off another victory late at Hawaii in overtime on Monday night.
The comeback win against the Spartans helped earn Malik Story WAC Player of the Week honors. The sophomore scored 29 points in the victory, winning his first ever Player of the Week honor, and helped Nevada sweep the Spartans once again.
More importantly than Story’s honor though is his team’s ability to battle and win close games on the road.
It was a key, two-game road stretch for the young 2010-11 Nevada team, a roster filled with tremendous youth. 10 of Carter’s top 11 scorers are all playing for the Pack for the first time this season. But they overcame the adversity against San Jose State by erasing a 15-point deficit to win in overtime, their first OT game of the season. Despite the fact that they lost another OT game in Oahu, Nevada continues to show that they are not the same team that lost their first 10 games away from Lawlor this season.
The Pack will return home to the Lawlor Center for a matchup against UC-Irvine where they could be tested by a high scoring Irvine team. Irvine comes into the game in eighth place in the Big West Conference, losing six of their last seven games, most recently against Pacific where they lost 75-51.
Nevada, which also lost to Pacific 64-53 earlier this season at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Season Tip-Off, will be facing a program that is also in a year of transition. First-year UCI head coach Russell Turner arrived from a stint as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors, originally arriving there from Stanford during the Mike Montgomery Bay Area college-to-the-pros move.
“Pacific played an outstanding game with 24 assists on 30 baskets. I’m not certain why we have struggled against the zone all year but we have to get better,” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “Our kids play hard, they don’t quit, but we have to get better.”
Turner has brought the same fast-pace, open court game to that he coached at Golden State to the Anteaters in his first season.
“I’m trying to play a fast-paced, up-tempo style of offense like we had with Golden State because I think that that’s the most entertaining style I can play, and I need to do that in this community to generate more interest for basketball and … to get more interest from higher-level recruits,” Turner said.
The Anteaters are in the top 50 in the nation in scoring (74.7 points per game) while Nevada is almost 100 spots down on the list at 145 with an average of 70.2 ppg. The Anteaters are led by senior guard Darren Moore who averages 17.5 points per game to go along with 6.2 rebounds per contest.
Don’t let that high scoring figure fool you though, as the Anteaters take a lot of shots to score that many points as they are 243rd nationally in field goal percentage and they are even worse sharing the ball. They average only 12.2 assists per game.
“It’s almost like a postseason game where you go into postseason not sure who you will play and it’s good for preparation in those terms,” Nevada Head Coach David Carter said at a press conference on Thursday.
Unfortunately, Nevada is further down the rankings than the Anteaters in all of those categories but not by much. The Pack have an advantage on the glass and Carter believes that is where the game will be won or lost.
“It will be challenging for us because we have the size advantage but they have the quickness advantage and they’ll spread our big guys out so we have to be prepared to play the perimeter versus playing inside,” Carter said of differences between these two teams.
Listen to Carter, plus Nevada players like Dario Hunt, Malik Story and Jerry Evans from a recent media day by clicking the link below;
With tip-off set for 2:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon these two statistically similar teams will do battle for Bracketbuster bragging rights, so make sure you come out and support the Pack in their final three home games.
Nevada will finish their home schedule next week as they continue their homestand with a matchup against Idaho next Thursday night. That game will be followed with a bang as the Boise State Broncos return to Reno next Saturday for the home finale, causing nightmares for fans of Bronco Nation.
No word yet if there will be a ceremony honoring Kyle Brotzman at halftime.