’Bows won’t change plan
UH stays the course even with Fazekas out for Nevada
Although a sprained ankle will likely keep Nevada's marquee player off the court tonight, the Hawaii basketball team isn't taking any chances.
As the Rainbow Warriors practiced yesterday in advance of their meeting with the 19th-ranked Wolf Pack, working to contain Nick Fazekas remained part of their preparation.
Hawaii vs. No. 19 Nevada
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE-TV, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $5-$26 Parking: $3
Promotion: "Green and White Night." Fans on same side as the team benches are encouraged to wear green, fans on the opposite side wear white. Details available at HawaiiAthletics.com.
"We're playing it just like he's going to be there," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "Are they going to change their whole offense while he's out? No. So you might make switches on some assignments, but we're practicing like he's there."
Fazekas, the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, is recovering from a sprained left ankle suffered in a win over Boise State on Monday. He accompanied the Wolf Pack to Honolulu but didn't suit up for practice yesterday and Nevada coach Mark Fox said he won't play in tonight's Western Athletic Conference contest.
Still, the Wolf Pack (15-1, 3-0 WAC) remain a formidable challenge for the Rainbows (10-6, 1-2) when they meet at the Stan Sheriff Center. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m.
"Their team's not only about (Fazekas)," UH forward Ahmet Gueye said. "He's a big piece on their team, but they've got big-time guards and they're pretty deep."
Something will have to give tonight as Hawaii enters the game with an 8-1 mark at the Sheriff Center while Nevada comes to town riding a 10-game winning streak in regular-season road games. The Rainbows have won six straight at home and are 45-8 in WAC home games since 2000.
Hawaii split the season series with Nevada last season, winning 73-69 in overtime at home and falling 73-55 in Reno, and generated some momentum heading into tonight's game with a convincing 83-66 win over Fresno State on Thursday.
The victory, one of the team's most complete performances of the season, gave the 'Bows their first notch in the win column in WAC play and provided a much-needed boost to their morale following an 0-2 start on the road.
"That cleared their heads a little bit and they believe in themselves a little bit more," Wallace said.
Hawaii will need to continue to execute an offense that led to six players scoring in double figures and remain tough on the boards. The Rainbows have won the rebounding battle in each of their last nine games.
"We know they're going to be physical, they're going to defend us, they're a very good rebounding team and they're great at home," Fox said. "So we've got a great challenge in front of us."
The lopsided outcome on Thursday allowed Wallace to keep most of his starters fresh. Gueye had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 14 minutes, while guard Matt Lojeski played a season-low 27 minutes.
Nevada, the three-time defending conference champion, has been in the national polls all season and is off to its best start in school history. Tonight's contest closes a stretch of four games in eight days for the team.
The Wolf Pack have won their last 13 regular-season WAC games, and their 26-5 record on the road over the past three seasons has been a key in their dominance in the conference.
"We've had some kids that really enjoyed playing on the road, and caught some people at the right time too," Fox said.
Fazekas played a significant role in the Pack's success over the past four years and had been averaging 20.3 points and ranked among the nation's top rebounders with 12.1 per game before suffering the injury.
Guard Marcelus Kemp helped keep the Pack on track with 33 points in a 72-63 win at San Jose State on Thursday. He has led the Wolf Pack in scoring in each of the last three games. He hit for 18 and 21 points in two games against Hawaii last year and his 43 3-pointers this season puts him second in the WAC.
Guard Kyle Shiloh had 14 points against San Jose State and point guard Ramon Sessions is averaging 12.9 points and 4.5 assists. David Ellis, a 7-foot-1 senior, is expected to start in place of Fazekas.
"It shows you the talent they have on that team," Wallace said. "They've been in big games, they know how to play together. Obviously, they're a much better team with (Fazekas), but they're still a good team without him."