JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
With the season-ending injury to center Stephen Verwers, Bobby Nash, right, has moved inside for Hawaii, which plays Nevada tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Beating Nevada a tall task
STORY SUMMARY »
San Jose State probably eliminated any hopes the Hawaii basketball team might have entertained of catching Nevada napping.
Nevada (8-6, 0-1 WAC) at Hawaii (5-9, 1-1)
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: KFVE Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
Nevada arrived in Honolulu yesterday following a 62-60 loss to the Spartans on Thursday and the Rainbow Warriors anticipate facing a hungry Wolf Pack team tonight.
"I'm sure Coach (Mark) Fox is going to have them ready to play," UH coach Bob Nash said.
Hawaii (5-9, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) will be coming off a week-long break when they face four-time defending WAC regular-season champion Nevada (8-6, 0-1) tonight.
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Tim Shepherd knows a little bit about banging with bigger guys.
A 6-foot-5 power forward in his Hawaii playing days, Shepherd made a career out of frustrating opposing big men despite being at a height disadvantage most every night.
"I loved battling those big guys," Shepherd recalled of his run in the early 1990s. "Some days I got it over on them, some days I didn't. I remember Eric Montross (North Carolina), he was just huge, I couldn't do anything with him. Shawn Bradley (BYU), Luc Longley (New Mexico) and those guys, I had a good time playing those guys."
These days, Shepherd continues to work for the program as Director of Operations while a suddenly undersized UH team adjusts to the role of being the smaller team in the paint.
The Rainbows (5-9, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) will again be challenged inside -- and outside for that matter -- when they face four-time defending league champion Nevada (8-6, 0-1) tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Certainly, containing All-WAC guard Marcelus Kemp, an explosive scorer on the perimeter and slashing to the basket, will be a focus for the Rainbows. But holding their ground in the post will also prove pivotal.
With 6-11 center Stephen Verwers out for the season, 6-8 P.J. Owsley has moved into the middle, and 6-6 Bobby Nash has gone from being a big guard to a smallish power forward. The Rainbows have some height on the bench in sophomores Bill Amis (6-9) and Paul Campbell (6-10) and 6-8 senior Alex Veit.
UH was outscored 68-44 in the paint in its first two WAC games and faces a Nevada team anchored inside by 7-foot sophomore JaVale McGee.
With three-time WAC Player of the Year Nick Fazekas in the NBA, McGee is averaging 13.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his first season as a starter. He also owns a wide lead in the WAC with 46 blocked shots in 14 games. The Wolf Pack also starts 6-8 Matt LaGrone and can bring 6-9 Demarshay Johnson and 7-1 David Ellis off the bench.
"We know that they have big bodies and we know McGee and Johnson are a real good post presence and that's been a problem for us as of late," Nash said. "We're going to have to step up down in the post and battle."
Although he's scored most of his points from the perimeter this season, Nash spent most of his high school career at Iolani down in the paint and faced some formidable post players at summer camps on the mainland.
"When I was a freshman I was guarding Eddy Curry and Big Baby (Glen Davis), and a lot of guys that were bigger than me when I was at the ABCD Camp," he said. "So I know what it's like down there."
Shepherd said his focus in playing taller players was on wearing them out by working to get in front of them and "sitting on their legs."
While Shepherd also had the bulk to root opponents off the block, the current UH big men are quite a bit leaner and must rely on smarts, technique and hustle to get around and deny the entry pass into the post.
"I was a little more physical, so I was able to kind of beat up those guys a little bit and push them around," Shepherd said. "With our guys (now), it's more positioning and playing in front and making sure you have backside help all the time."
The Rainbows have had a week to prepare Nevada in hopes of building on their win at San Jose State last Saturday. They figure to face a hungry Wolf Pack team that was stunned by those same Spartans 62-60 on Thursday in San Jose.
"We didn't play well at all," Nevada coach Mark Fox said. "We're not nearly as good as we've been the last four or five years, we're just so young."
Kemp, a preseason All-WAC pick, returned to Reno after considering a jump to the NBA and leads the Pack with 18.6 points per game. Brandon Fields (11.4 ppg) is the team's top 3-point shooter and true freshman Armon Johnson (11 ppg) is a rising star at point guard.
Still, losing four starters off last year' 29-5 team has come with some growing pains, with Fox starting a lineup featuring a freshman, three sophomores and a senior in Kemp.
"He's handled it really well," Fox said of Kemp's role as senior leader. "He's had to do too much for us. Early, he had to do way too much and tried too hard. But has been very patient with the inexperience around him."