IDAHO VANDALS (8-7, 1-3 WAC) vs. NEVADA WOLF PACK (10-7, 2-2 WAC)
Sat., Jan. 16, 2010 - 7:05 p.m. PT - Lawlor Events Center (11,536) - Reno, Nev.
TELEVISION: Live internet streaming at www.nevadawolfpack.com (subscription fee)
RADIO: University of Nevada Sports Network (ESPN Radio 630 AM, Reno;
KELK 1240 AM, Elko; KHWG 750 AM, Fallon & KSVL 92.3 FM, Yerington)
Ryan Radtke (play-by-play) & Len Stevens (color), pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m. PT
SERIES HISTORY: Nevada leads the all-time series with Idaho 32-23.
LAST MEETING: Nevada won the last meeting between the two teams, turning in a 69-65 victory at Idaho on Jan. 31, 2009 in Moscow, Idaho.
Coming off a 79-72 overtime loss to Utah State on Wednesday night, the Nevada Wolf Pack (10-7, 2-2 WAC) wraps up its three-game Western Athletic Conference homestand on Saturday night, playing host to the Idaho Vandals (8-7, 1-3). Saturday's game at Lawlor Events Center will tip off at 7:05 p.m. Pacific Time and can be heard on Nevada's flagship radio station, ESPN 630 AM, with Ryan Radtke and former Wolf Pack head coach Len Stevens calling the action. Wednesday's loss snapped Nevada's two-game conference winning streak, while the team has won eight of its last 11 contests overall. That also marked the first home loss of the season for Nevada, which is 8-1 at Lawlor Events Center this season and has won 27 of its last 33 WAC regular-season home games. Following Saturday's game, the Wolf Pack heads out on the road for a pair of WAC contests, traveling to Boise State on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Fresno State on Saturday, Jan. 23.
Under the direction of first-year head coach David Carter, the Wolf Pack returned three starters and a total of eight letterwinners from last year's 21-13 team, including the preseason WAC Player of the Year in sophomore forward Luke Babbitt who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season as a true freshman and preseason first-team All-WAC selection junior guard Armon Johnson who was second on the team in scoring and paced the Wolf Pack in assists last year. This season's team also features three seniors in guards Brandon Fields and Ray Kraemer and forward Joey Shaw as well as five new faces. Last season, Nevada turned in its sixth consecutive year with at least 20 wins and earned the team's seventh consecutive postseason appearance with an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational.
WINNING AT LAWLOR
The Wolf Pack has won 66 of its last 80 contests at Lawlor Events Center, dating back to the start of the 2005-06 season. Including an 8-1 record this year, the Wolf Pack has turned in a 94-18 record at Lawlor Events Center since the start of the 2003-04 season (.839 winning percentage).
Nevada has also captured 27 of its last 33 WAC regular-season home games (.818) and 32 of its last 39 home games against WAC opponents (.821) counting the 2006 and 2009 WAC Tournaments (dating back to the 2005-06 season). A Jan. 19, 2008 loss to Boise State snapped the Wolf Pack's 14-game winning streak in WAC home games, including a perfect 8-0 mark in 2006-07 and a 2-0 mark to start the 2007-08 season (finished 7-1). That 14-game win streak had dated back to January of 2006. Nevada's losses to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State last season marked its first back-to-back WAC home losses since falling to Louisiana Tech and SMU in January of 2002.
ABOUT THE IDAHO VANDALS
Under the direction of second-year head coach Don Verlin (25-23 record in one-plus years at UI), the Idaho Vandals returned four starters and a total of six letterwinners from last year's 17-16 team. The Vandals finished in a tie for third in the WAC last season with a 9-7 conference mark. Idaho holds an 8-7 overall mark and a 1-3 WAC record this season. The Vandals opened WAC play with a 59-52 win at Hawai'i on Jan. 2 but have dropped their last three, most recently losing a pair of close home games to La Tech 77-71 Jan. 9 and New Mexico State 75-72 Jan. 11.
Senior guard Mac Hopson (6-2, 185) leads Idaho and ranks ninth in the WAC in scoring with 15.3 points per game. He is also adding 5.0 boards per game and checks in at fourth in the WAC with 4.33 assists per contest. Senior guard Steffan Johnson (6-1, 180) is second on the team with 11.7 points per game, while senior center Marvin Jefferson (6-10, 250) paces the Vandals and ranks 13th in the WAC with 6.3 boards per contest.
IN THE SERIES
Nevada leads the series with Idaho 32-23 and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two former members of the Big West Conference. Last year, the two teams split the regular-season meetings with each winning on the other's home floor. Idaho turned in a 78-73 victory over Nevada Jan. 3, 2009 in Reno, and Nevada repaid the favor with a 69-65 victory on Jan. 31, 2009 in Moscow. The Wolf Pack has also captured five of the last six games and 18 of the last 20 meetings in Reno, dating back to the 1982-83 season. Nevada's only home losses in that stretch came during the 1998-99 and 2008-09 seasons.
LAST TIME OUT
Jared Quayle scored 21 points as Utah State outlasted Nevada 79-72 in overtime Wednesday night. Quayle and Tyler Newbold each hit three-pointers in overtime to lead the Aggies. Pooh Williams added 16 points for Utah State.
Sophomore Luke Babbitt scored 26 points as the Wolf Pack lost for the first time this season in nine home games. Senior Ray Kraemer added 14.
Nevada led 65-55 with seven minutes to go after Babbitt scored in the lane. Utah State outscored Nevada 14-4 the rest of the way to send the game into overtime tied at 69-69.
The Wolf Pack scored the last five points of the first half to take a 35-33 lead at the break. Babbitt hit a three-pointer with 25 seconds left in the half to tie it 33-33, and junior Armon Johnson scored on a layup off a steal with four seconds left.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD
Nevada leads the WAC in scoring offense and ranks 14th in the NCAA this season at 82.0 points per game, up from its average of 70.6 ppg last year. Four Wolf Pack players are averaging in double figures for scoring this season, and three are ranked in the WAC's top 15. Sophomore Luke Babbitt is leading the team and ranked third in the WAC at 20.8 points per game (18th in the NCAA), while junior Armon Johnson is seventh at 16.4 points per game and senior Brandon Fields ranks 10th at 14.5 points per contest. Senior Joey Shaw is just out of the WAC's top 15 at 10.7 points per game.
Nevada has turned in three of its top four scoring efforts of the season recently with 104 points in its Dec. 22 loss to BYU, 99 points in the following day's victory over Tulsa and 96 in Saturday's 96-67 win over San Jose State. The team has averaged 85.3 points per game in its last seven games (597) and 84.1 ppg in its last 11 contests (925). This season marks the first time since 1997-98 that the team has topped the century mark twice in the same year, while its two 100-point efforts are the top two scoring efforts in the WAC so far this season. The Pack's 96 points Saturday vs. SJSU were also the most for Nevada in a WAC game since the team's 98-85 win over New Mexico State on Feb. 28, 2008 in Reno.
Nevada's season-high 112 points in its Nov. 21 win over Houston marked the most for the Wolf Pack since the team turned in a 117-88 win over Northwestern State on Dec. 19, 1991. The team's 61 points in the first half also mark the most points in a half since Nevada scored what is believed to be a school-record 71 points in the second half of a 117-88 win over Northwestern State on Dec. 19, 1991.
The Wolf Pack has had four different players lead the team in scoring this year. Sophomore Luke Babbitt has paced the Wolf Pack in scoring a team-best nine times this year, including seven of the last nine games. Most recently, he turned in 24 points in the Dec. 23 win over Tulsa, 22 Dec. 28 vs. Portland, 24 Jan. 2 at La Tech and 26 Jan. 4 at New Mexico State and Wednesday vs. Utah State. Babbitt also scored a season-best 29 points to pace the team Dec. 17 vs. Eastern Washington. Junior Armon Johnson has led the team in scoring five times, including a season-high 30 points Dec. 22 vs. BYU (also a team season high) and 23 in the Jan. 9 win over San Jose State. Johnson also paced the Pack in three straight games with 20 points Nov. 29 at then No. 11/12 North Carolina, 18 Dec. 5 at Pacific and 19 Dec. 8 vs. Fresno Pacific. Senior Brandon Fields had 22 in a Nov. 18 loss at UNLV and 20 Dec. 12 vs. South Dakota State, while senior Joey Shaw turned in his career-best 26 in the Nov. 14 win over Houston.
Nevada has had at least four players in double figures for scoring in 14 of its 17 games this year, including two with five (Houston and BYU). The Wolf Pack had three players reach the 20-point plateau in each of those contests.
NEVADA'S 1,000-POINT SCORERS
With his 19 points on Jan. 9 vs. San Jose State, senior Brandon Fields became the 20th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. Fields now has 1,025 points in 115 career games and joined junior Armon Johnson in that exclusive club. Johnson scored his 1,000th career point Dec. 5 at Pacific and currently ranks 14th all time at Nevada with 1,185 points in 84 career games.
With Fields and Johnson reaching that milestone, it marks the first time since 2006-07 that Nevada's roster features two active members of the 1,000-point club (Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp). Sophomore Luke Babbitt has a chance to reach the mark this season (926 points in 51 career games) and if he does, that would mark the first time in school history that Nevada would have three members of the 1,000-point club on its roster in the same season.
BABBITT PICKING UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF LAST YEAR
Sophomore forward Luke Babbitt has just picked up where he left off last season, leading the Wolf Pack again in scoring and rebounding this year. He ranks third in the WAC with 20.8 points per game (18th in the NCAA) and second in the conference at 10.0 boards per contest (25th in the nation in rebounding). He also leads the WAC in scoring and rebounding in conference games only, turning in 24.0 points and 11.5 boards per league tilt.
The Nevada southpaw turned in a season-high 29 points in a Dec. 17 victory over Eastern Washington, just one point shy of his career best, including 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the first half. He pulled down nine rebounds in the game to lead the Pack but saw his stretch of seven consecutive double-doubles snapped. Babbitt is tied for second in the nation with 12 double-doubles and has had nine or more rebounds in all but four games this season. Babbitt has turned in a double-double in each of the last four games and five of the last six, including 24 points and 13 rebounds Jan. 2 at La Tech, 26 points and 11 boards Jan. 4 at New Mexico State, 20 points and 10 rebounds Jan. 9 vs. San Jose State and 26 points and 11 boards Wednesday vs. Utah State.
Babbitt has had 21 career games with at least 20 points (including 10 this year and the last seven games) and has led the team in scoring 24 times in his young career (15 times last year and nine this season). He has scored in double figures in 48 of 51 career games at Nevada, including all 17 contests this year. In the last seven games, Babbitt is averaging 23.1 points per contest (162). The preseason WAC Player of the Year, Babbitt was named to the preseason watch lists for the 2009-10 John R. Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy. Both awards are annually presented to the top player in college basketball.
Babbitt turned in 27 points to go along with 13 rebounds Nov. 27 at VCU, scoring 23 of his 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the second half in Nevada's near comeback. He also had 14 points and a career-best 17 rebounds Nov. 21 vs. Houston and opened the year with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting in the team's Nov. 14 win over Montana State.
Babbitt, a 6-9, 225-pound forward from Reno, Nev., was named the 2009 WAC Freshman of the Year last season after leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 16.9 points and 7.4 boards per game. An all-district selection by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the United States Basketball Writers Association, he ranked second among the nation's freshmen in scoring behind just Liberty's Seth Curry who averaged 20.2 points per game last year. Babbitt finished third in the WAC in scoring and rebounding and led the league in free throw shooting. Babbitt also set nearly every Wolf Pack freshman single-season record, including scoring with 573 total points.
Nevada leads the WAC and ranks 18th in the nation in field goal percentage, knocking down 48.9 percent of its field goal attempts, compared to just 42.7 percent from the field last season. The Wolf Pack has shot 50.3 percent from the field in its last seven games (250-497), including a 58.8-percent effort Dec. 22 vs. BYU and a 56.3-percent showing Dec. 23 vs. Tulsa.
The Wolf Pack has shot over 50 percent in nine of its 17 games this season (including two of the last three) and holds a 8-1 record in those games. Nevada shot a sizzling season-high 60.9 percent in its Nov. 21 victory over Houston. That marked the team's first 60-percent effort since a 62.3-percent shooting night at San Jose State on Feb. 12, 2009.
Nevada's roster features two players ranked in the WAC's top 15 for field goal percentage. Junior Armon Johnson is ranked 10th at 53.1 percent, while sophomore Luke Babbitt checks in at 13th at 50.6 percent.
Nevada has also checked in at 41.4 percent from three-point land in the last seven games (53-128). The team had shot just 20.5 percent from three-point land in its three previous games (9-44) before the recent effort. Nevada has made a season-high 50 percent of its three-point attempts four times this year (6-of-12 at UNLV, 11-of-22 vs. Houston, 9-of-18 vs. Tulsa, 9-of-18 Wednesday vs. Utah State) and made nine in its Jan. 4 win at New Mexico State (45.0 percent, 9-20). The 11 three-pointers made vs. Houston marked the most for Nevada since it made 11 in a Feb. 9, 2008 win over Hawai'i.
Senior Ray Kraemer leads the WAC in three-point percentage, knocking down 54.1 percent of his long-range attempts (33-61). He has shot percent in the last seven games (18-28), matching his career bests for treys made and attempted with a 4-of-6 effort Dec. 22 vs. BYU, making all three attempts Dec. 23 vs. Tulsa and going 4-of-4 Wednesday vs. Utah State. He had made 70 percent in the previous three games (7-10) before going 1-for-5 Jan. 2 at La Tech but has rebounded with a 3-of-4 effort Jan. 4 at New Mexico State, a 3-of-5 showing Jan. 9 vs. San Jose State and a 4-of-4 outing Jan. 13 vs. Utah State. Kraemer also made a career-best four three-pointers in the Nov. 21 win over Houston, going 7-of-9 overall from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point land. He has had two other games with three treys (3-of-5 Nov. 14 vs. Montana State and Dec. 8 vs. Fresno Pacific).
Junior guard Armon Johnson is tied for first in the WAC and ranks 60th in the nation this year with 5.12 assists per game this year. The leftie dished out a career-best 12 assists Nov. 21 vs. Houston for his second career double-double, had eight assists in a Dec. 17 victory over Eastern Washington and turned in nine assists Wednesday vs. Utah State. He is also leading the WAC with 6.0 assists per game in conference play. Last year, Johnson turned in 11 points and 11 assists in a win over Oregon State, which marked Nevada's first points-assists double-double since Ramon Sessions had his lone career double-double in 2004-05 vs. Boise State (11 points and 10 assists). Johnson's 12 assists win over Houston are still the most by a WAC player so far this season.
With his seven assists in the Dec. 8 win over Fresno Pacific, Johnson entered the Nevada career chart for assists and currently ranks eighth with 343 career assists. He has also become just the sixth player in Wolf Pack history to turn in 1,000 points and 250 assists in his career. Only Nevada standouts Marcelus Kemp, Pete Padgett, Darryl Owens Kevin Soares and Matt Williams have previously scored at least 1,000 points and dished out 250 or more assists as members of the Wolf Pack. Johnson was on the preseason watch list for the 2010 Bob Cousy Award, which is annually presented to the top collegiaten point guard in the country.
A 2009 first-team All-WAC selection, Johnson has led the Pack in scoring five times this year and checks in at seventh in the WAC in scoring with 16.4 points per game this season. He scored a season-high 30 points in the Dec. 22 game with BYU, his second career 30-point game and just three points shy of his career best of 33 last year vs. California. He has also turned two other 20-point games this year, including 22 points in the Nov. 21 win over Houston and a game-high 23 Jan. 9 vs. San Jose State.
WOLF PACK NOTES
- The Wolf Pack shot a season-low 50.0 percent from the free throw line (9-18) in Wednesday's overtime loss to Utah State.
- Nevada suffered its first home loss of the year Wednesday but has still put up some gaudy offensive numbers at Lawlor Events Center this season. The Wolf Pack is averaging 84.6 points per game and shooting 51.8 percent from the field in its nine home games. Sophomore Luke Babbitt is averaging 20.7 points per home game, while junior Armon Johnson is adding 16.3 ppg. Johnson is shooting the ball particularly well at home, making 59.3 percent of his shots at Lawlor (64-108). He has also dished out 6.3 assists per home game. Senior Ray Kraemer is knocking down 55.9 percent of his three-point attempts at home (19-34), including a perfect 4-of-4 outing Jan. 13 vs. Utah State.
- Sophomore Luke Babbitt ranks third in the WAC and 20th in the nation at 89.4 percent from the line this year (84-894), including a 10-of-10 effort Nov. 18 at UNLV and an 11-of-11 showing Jan. 9 vs. San Jose State. In the last six games, Babbitt has made 37-of-41 free throw attempts (90.2 percent), while his miss in the second half Jan. 4 at New Mexico State snapped a stretch of 22 straight made free throws for him. Last year, Babbitt led the WAC in free throw percentage and ranked 24th in the country last year as a freshman at 86.4 percent.
- Senior Brandon Fields ranks second on the team with 41 assists and has the Wolf Pack's best assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.64 (41 assists and just 25 turnovers). He tied his career best with five assists and no turnovers Jan. 4 at New Mexico State.
- Fields is turning in 14.5 points per game this season (third on the team and 10th in the WAC), up 5.1 ppg from his average of 9.4 last year.
- Nevada was outrebounded by Utah State 43-36 on Wednesday, snapping a stretch of 11 consecutive games that the Wolf Pack had outrebounded its opponents. Nevada has still outrebounded 13 of its last 15 foes and is now 9-4 when outrebounding its opponent this season.
- Nevada continues to lead the WAC in rebounding with 39.4 boards per contest and has two players ranked in the WAC's top 10. Sophomore Luke Babbitt is second in the WAC and 25th in the nation with 10.0 rebounds per game, while sophomore Dario Hunt checks in at ninth in the WAC at 7.3 boards per contest. Four Wolf Pack players set or tied career bests for rebounding in the season-high 57-rebound performance vs. Houston, including a career-high 17 by Babbitt, a career best-tying nine by senior Joey Shaw and Hunt (since broken) and a career high-matching seven by junior Armon Johnson. Senior Brandon Fields also matched his career best with nine rebounds Nov. 27 at VCU.
- The Wolf Pack is now 3-6 in games decided by 10 points or less and has lost its seven games this year by an average of just 7.3 points per contest (51).
- Nevada blocked a season-high 11 shots in Wednesday's game vs. Utah State with sophomore Dario Hunt matching his career best with six rejections and sophomore Luke Babbitt setting a career high with four blocks.
- The Wolf Pack ranks second in the WAC with 4.24 blocked shots per game after leading the conference in the category with 4.79 per tilt last season. The WAC's leader last year, sophomore Dario Hunt is second in the league in blocked shots this year with 2.12 per game (68th in the NCAA), including a career-high matching six Jan. 13 vs. Utah State, five in the season opener vs. Montana State and three in four other games. He has blocked at least one shot in 44 of 51 career games (16 of 17 contests this season) and has turned in 30 career games with more than one block, including five with five or more. Hunt has 103 blocks in his career (in 51 games, 2.02 per game), which already ranks tied for sixth on the Nevada career list. Hunt's 67 blocks last season set the school freshman record and ranked third in the Nevada single-season record book.
- Sophomore Keith Olson saw the first action of his Wolf Pack career Dec. 19 vs. Wagner, turning in five points on 2-of-4 shooting and pulling down four rebounds in 11 minutes. The Gardnerville, Nev., native and Douglas High School graduate transferred to Nevada from Northern Arizona and sat out the first semester due to NCAA rules.
- Sophomore London Giles turned in a career-high six assists in 10 minutes of action in the Dec. 17 Wagner game, while senior Brandon Fields matched his career high with five. The pair accounted for 11 of Nevada's 19 assists in the contest.
- The contest-cinching three-pointer that senior Brandon Fields hit to with 4.3 seconds left in its Dec. 17 victory over Eastern Washington marked the first game-winning field goal for Fields in his Nevada career. He had been 0-of-5 from three-point land in the game before nailing the shot.
- All 11 of the Wolf Pack players who saw action in the Dec. 12 win over South Dakota State scored at least two points, including freshman Keith Fuetsch who scored the first four points of his career. Ten of 11 players scored in the Dec. 8 win over Fresno Pacific. The Wolf Pack got two of its three highest bench scoring outputs recently, including a season-high 26 bench points in the Dec. 8 win over Fresno Pacific and 22 in the Dec. 12 victory over South Dakota State. Nevada also got 23 bench points in its Nov. 21 victory over Houston. Senior Ray Kraemer is Nevada's leading scorer off the bench, turning in 7.1 points per game.
- Freshman Marko Cukic turned in season highs with six points on 3-of-3 shooting and five rebounds Dec. 5 at Pacific and bested those marks in the Dec. 8 win over Fresno Pacific with seven points and six boards.
- Sophomore Luke Babbitt was on the preseason watch list for the Wooden Award, marking the fourth time in five seasons that Nevada has had a player considered for that prestigious award with Marcelus Kemp making the preseason list in 2007-08 and Nick Fazekas in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Fazekas was named to the final ballot for the Wooden Award in each of those years and in 2006-07, he was named one of 10 Wooden Award All-Americans and finished eighth in the final voting for the award.
Following Saturday's game with Idaho, Nevada will head out on the road for a pair of games, traveling to Boise State on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and to Fresno State on Saturday, Jan. 23. Both games will be televised locally by KAME-TV 21. The team returns home to Lawlor Events Center on Saturday, Jan. 30 to play host to Hawai'i.