Men's Hoops Heads to UNLV Saturday

Coming off a 67-54 win over Santa Clara in the team’s home opener, the four-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Nevada Wolf Pack (2-1) returns to the road on Saturday with a trip to Las Vegas, Nev., to take on UNLV (3-0). Saturday’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center will tip off at 7:05 p.m. Pacific Time and will be televised by the Mtn. Playing four of its first six games on the road this year, the Wolf Pack brings a two-game winning streak into Saturday’s contest and heads to Las Vegas looking to win its third consecutive contest on its in-state rival’s home court. Following Saturday’s contest with the Rebels, Nevada returns home to Lawlor Events Center to take on California on Wednesday, Nov. 28. The Wolf Pack has won its last 13 home games and 25 of its last 26 contests at Lawlor Events Center.
 Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Mark Fox, the Wolf Pack returns one starter and a total of eight letterwinners from last year’s school-record 29-5 team, including 2007 first-team All-WAC selection Marcelus Kemp. This year’s team also features four new faces (one redshirt freshman, a sophomore transfer and a pair of true freshmen). Last season, Nevada set the school single-season record for victories with 29, turned in its fourth consecutive year with at least 25 wins, won its fourth straight WAC regular-season title and earned the team’s fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

Nevada has won 20 of its last 26 games away from the friendly confines of Lawlor Events Center, including 16 road wins and four neutral-site victories (dating back to midway through the 2005-06 season). Last year, the team turned in a 14-4 record away from home, including a 10-2 road mark and a 4-2 record in neutral-site games. The Wolf Pack has won four of its last six regular-season road contests and 15 of its last 18. Last year, the team saw an 11-game regular-season road winning streak snapped with a Jan. 20, 2007 loss at New Mexico State. Prior to that, the team had not dropped a road contest since falling at Fresno State on Jan. 18, 2006.
 In the last three-plus seasons since the start of the 2004-05 campaign, the Wolf Pack has tallied a 32-8 record in road contests (80.0 winning percentage).
 This year, Nevada will open the season with four of its first six contests away from home, beginning with its season-opening two-game road trip to UCF and UC Irvine. The team racked up over 5,800 frequent flier miles in five days to open the season, traveling 2,833 miles from Reno to Orlando, 2,496 miles from Orlando to Anaheim for a game two days later and 544 miles from Anaheim back to Reno.
 Last season, Nevada opened the year with four of its first seven games away from home (three road wins and a neutral-site victory), while in 2005-06, the team played five of its first six games away from the friendly confines of the Lawlor Events Center (four road wins and a loss on a neutral floor to 2006 NCAA runner-up UCLA). That year, Nevada traveled over 10,000 miles in 11 days in a four-game road stand that included trips to Vermont, UNLV, Kansas and Pacific.

UNLV has turned in a 3-0 record to open the 2007-08 season, downing Montana State 76-65 and Dixie State 97-66 in a pair of home games and winning a road game at San Diego 66-55 on Nov. 17. Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Lon Kruger (67-34 record at UNLV), the Rebels take on Louisville on Wednesday, Nov. 21 before playing host to the Wolf Pack. UNLV returns one starter and eight letterwinners from last year’s 30-7 NCAA Sweet Sixteen squad. The Rebels finished second in the Mountain West Conference with a 12-4 record last season.
 Senior guard/forward Curtis Terry (6-5, 205) is leading three Rebels in double figures for scoring with 14.3 points per game, while junior guard Wink Adams (6-0, 200) and junior forward Joe Darger (6-7, 225) are adding 13.0 and 11.0 points per contest, respectively. Darger is also the team’s top rebounder, turning in 5.7 boards per game. As a team, UNLV has outscored its opponents by 17.7 points per contest this year (79.7 to 62.0) and is shooting 46.2 percent from the field.

UNLV holds a 49-19 advantage in the series with Nevada, dating back to the 1961-62 season. Last year, the Rebels turned in a 58-49 victory over the Wolf Pack on Dec. 9, 2006 to snap Nevada’s three-game winning streak in the series. Prior to last season, the Wolf Pack had won the last three meetings and four of the last six games between the two teams. Nevada has turned in two consecutive road wins over UNLV in the last two meetings at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, including a 68-61 victory on Nov. 25, 2005. Marcelus Kemp scored 20 of his then career high-tying 24 points in the second half to lead Nevada to victory in that 2005 game.

Senior Marcelus Kemp scored 23 points to lead Nevada over Santa Clara 67-54 on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Lawlor Events Center in Nevada's home opener.
 Kemp had 16 of his points in the second half, including seven in a 15-2 run over the first six minutes that put the Wolf Pack ahead 41-27.
 Santa Clara responded with an 11-2 run to cut the Nevada lead to 43-38 with 8:46 to play, but could get no closer the rest of the way. John Bryant led the Broncos with 20 points.
 The Wolf Pack sealed the win with a 12-0 run, taking its largest lead of the game at 62-44 on three free throws by freshman Malik Cooke with 3:54 left. Freshman Armon Johnson and sophomore Brandon Fields added 13 each for Nevada.
 Calvin Johnson finished with 14 points for Santa Clara, which stayed close in the first half by hitting 5 of 9 3-pointers.
 Nevada led 26-25 at halftime. The Wolf Pack shot 54 percent for the game, including 62 percent in the second half. The Broncos shot 46.7 percent for the game and outrebounded Nevada 27-25.

- Four members of the Wolf Pack are averaging in doubles figures for scoring this year, led by senior guard Marcelus Kemp who ranks fifth in the WAC at 18.0 points per game. Kemp has led the team in scoring in two of three games this year, including 19 points in the Nov. 11 season opener at UCF and 23 last week vs. Santa Clara (both game highs). Sophomore Brandon Fields is adding 12.0 points per game, including a career-best 16 points Nov. 13 at UC Irvine, while sophomore JaVale McGee and true freshman Armon Johnson are both turning in 11.0 points per game this season.

- With 23 points last week vs. Santa Clara, senior Marcelus Kemp turned in his 13th consecutive game in double figures for scoring (all three this year) and the 65th of his career. Dating back to the 2005-06 season, Kemp’s sophomore year, he has scored in double figures in 44 of the last 46 games.  After leading the team in scoring in 17 games last season, including five of the last six, Kemp has paced the Wolf Pack in scoring in two of three games this season.

- Kemp has scored 76.0 percent of his points in the second halves of games this season (41 of 54 total points). In the season opener at UCF, he turned in 15 of 19 points in the second half, while at UC Irvine, it was 10 of his 12 points in the final 20 minutes. Kemp continued that trend again last Saturday against Santa Clara, turning in 16 of his game-high 23 in the second half.

- As a team, Nevada is leading the WAC in scoring defense, holding its opponents to just 61.7 points per game. The team held Santa Clara to a season-low 54 points last week. The Wolf Pack also ranks second in rebounding defense at 29.0 boards allowed per contest. Nevada has won 47 of its last 49 games when holding its opponent to 60 points or less, including a 13-1 record in 2005-06 and a 6-1 mark last year.

- Sophomore JaVale McGee continues to pace the WAC in blocked shots with an average of 3.3 per contest. He holds a two-block advantage of Hawai’i’s Bill Amie (1.33) in the category. McGee turned in a career-high six blocks Nov. 11 at UCF and had three at UC Irvine on Nov. 13. Last season, he ranked second on the team and ninth in the WAC with 0.9 blocked shots per game. He finished with 30 blocks on the year and had swatted a previous career best with four vs. Idaho on Jan. 6, 2007.

- As a team, Nevada paces the conference with an average of 5.67 blocks per game, including a season-best eight Nov. 13 at UC Irvine.

- The Wolf Pack has made a WAC-best 50.9 percent of its field goal attempts this season and has been above 50 percent in each of the last two games, including a season-high 56.9 percent Nov. 13 at UC Irvine. Senior Demarshay Johnson (7th, .579) and sophomore Brandon Fields (8th, .552) are both ranked in the league’s top 10 in the category.

- Senior Demarshay Johnson is pacing the squad in rebounding and is tied for 10th in the conference with 6.7 rebounds per game. He has led the team in rebounding in each of the last two games and turned in his first career double-double Nov. 13 at UC Irvine, scoring 12 points and grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds.

- Nevada has been outrebounded in two of three games so far this season by the narrowest of margins (40-39 UCF and 27-25 vs. Santa Clara). Against UC Irvine, the Wolf Pack outboarded the  Anteaters 43-20, including a 14-7 advantage on the offensive glass. The team is ranked third in the WAC in rebounding margin at +6.7 boards per contest. Last season, Nevada beat its opponents on the boards in 27 of 34 games (24-3 record) and led the league in rebounding margin (+6.5).

- The Wolf Pack features three players ranked in the league’s top 10 for assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Sophomore Brandon Fields and true freshman Armon Johnson are pacing the team and tied for fifth in the WAC at 3.67 assists per game apiece, while senior Marcelus Kemp checks in at eighth with 3.0 assists per contest. Fields ranks third in the WAC with a 1.83 assist-to-turnover ratio, while Kemp (6th, 1.13) and Johnson (7th, 1.10) trail just behind.

- True freshman Armon Johnson currently ranks in a tie for third in the WAC in three-point shooting, knocking down 50.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc (5-10). He made 3-of-4 long range attempts in his collegiate debut at UCF and added another trey against both UC Irvine and Santa Clara.

- Sophomore forward JaVale McGee, sophomore guard Brandon Fields and true freshman guard Armon Johnson all made their first career starts for the Wolf Pack on Nov. 11 at UCF. Johnson marked the first Wolf Pack true freshman to start a game since Ramon Sessions started 31 of 32 games in 2004-05. Sessions was named the WAC Freshman of the Year that season.

Last year, Nevada became one of just two schools in the country to win four consecutive regular-season conference titles and appear in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments (2004-07). The four-time Western Athletic Conference regular-season champion Wolf Pack joins just Gonzaga, which has won at least a share of the last five West Coast Conference regular-season crowns, on that list. A total of 15 schools appeared in the last four NCAA Tournaments, including Arizona, Boston College, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, Nevada, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Southern Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

Fourth-year head coach Mark Fox is the first coach in school history to lead his squad to three consecutive 20-win and NCAA Tournament seasons. He holds an 83-19 career record in his three-plus seasons at the helm of the Wolf Pack program (.814 winning percentage). His 81 wins were tied with Gonzaga's Mark Few for the most victories in Division I history by a coach through three seasons (81-18 record in his first three seasons).
 Fox has been named the Don Haskins Coach of the Year in each of his first three seasons as Nevada’s head coach to become the first coach in WAC history to earn the honor in three consecutive years. Last year, he was also one of 15 finalists for the 2007 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award and was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches District 13 Coach of the Year.

Nevada has been picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference in 2007-08 by the league’s coaches and media, while seniors Marcelus Kemp and Demarshay Johnson were named to the All-WAC teams.
 The Wolf Pack received one first-place vote and 53 points in the poll of the league’s nine head coaches, while the team garnered 239 points with seven first-place votes in the media poll. The coaches and media also picked All-WAC teams with Kemp being named to the first team by both groups and Johnson earning second-team honors from the league’s coaches.

Over the last four-plus seasons dating back to 2003-04, Nevada has turned in a 108-28 record, the best record of any WAC team during that time (.794 winning percentage). In conference games, Nevada has won 56 games, the most in that same time period.

The Wolf Pack returns one starter and eight letterwinners from last year’s 29-5 team, including 2007 first-team All-WAC selection Marcelus Kemp. Kemp started 33 of 34 games and was second on the team and third in the WAC at 18.5 points per game. Other returning letterwinners include senior center David Ellis, senior guard Curry Lynch, junior guard Lyndale Burleson (academically ineligible for the first semester), sophomore guard Brandon Fields, and sophomore forwards Matt LaGrone, JaVale McGee and Richie Phillips. Senior forward Demarshay Johnson also returns after redshirting last season. He started 16 games and averaged 5.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shots per game in 2005-06.

Nevada’s roster features three new faces in a sophomore transfer (guard Ray Kraemer) and two true freshmen (forward Malik Cooke and guard Armon Johnson), while Adam Carp, a 6-7, 188-pound walk-on forward, redshirted in his first season after coming to Nevada from Clayton Valley High School in Clayton, Calif.
 Kraemer comes to Nevada after transferring from Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas. A 6-4, 200-pound shooting guard from Kemah, Texas, he was named the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and earned first-team all-conference honors as a freshman. He finished second in the league in scoring at 18.0 points per game and was fourth in rebounding at 8.3 boards per contest as a freshman but did not play in 2006-07 due to a shoulder injury.
 Cooke is a 6-5, 200-pound forward who comes to Nevada from the state of North Carolina. A native of Charlotte and a graduate of Christ School in Arden, he was a two-time all-state selection and the 2007 Western North Carolina Player of the Year after leading his team to a pair of state championships. His school's career leading scorer, he averaged 19.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a senior. The two-time Northern 4A Regional Co-Player of the Year in each of his last two seasons, Johnson set the state career scoring record with 2,616 points while at nearby Hug High School in Reno. The 6-3, 190-pound guard was a two-time all-state selection and led the Hawks to the Sierra League championship and a state semifinals appearance in 2006. Johnson averaged 33.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a senior.

Senior guard Marcelus Kemp has been named to the preseason watch lists for two of the most prestigious awards in college basketball: the John Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy. For Nevada, this marks the third year that a member of the Wolf Pack has garnered the attention of the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy committees. Three-time WAC Player of the Year Nick Fazekas was named to the final national ballot for the Wooden Award in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Last season, Fazekas was one of 10 Wooden Award All-Americans and finished eighth in the final voting for the Wooden Award. He was a preseason and midseason candidate for the Naismith Trophy in 2005-06 and made the final ballot in 2006-07.
 Kemp joins Utah State's Jaycee Carroll as the two WAC representatives on the preseason watch lists for both honors. A 2007 first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection, Kemp ranked second on the team and third in the conference in scoring last season at 18.5 points per game. He started 33 of 34 games for the Wolf Pack and ranked among the league's leaders in field goal, three-point and free throw shooting one season ago. Kemp has started 54 of 104 games in his Wolf Pack career and ranks in the Nevada career top 10 for scoring, three-pointers made, three-point percentage and free throw percentage.
 The Wooden Award watch list is composed of 50 student-athletes who, based on last year’s individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball’s most coveted trophy. These top 50 candidates are comprised of returning players. In January, the Wooden Award committee will release the Midseason Top 30 list, followed by the distribution of the national ballot to more than 1,000 voters in early March. The 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the Tuesday after the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament is completed. The 2008 award ceremony will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club the weekend of April 11-13, 2008.  The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the Award’s ceremony and will receive a contribution from The Los Angeles Athletic Club for their university’s general scholarship fund.  One of these five players will be named the John R. Wooden Award Player of the Year at a live televised announcement from The Club.
 The Naismith Trophy watch list, which consists of 50 players, was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selector's, which based its preseason criteria on player performances from last season and expectations for the 2007-08 season.  There were 17 seniors and 17 juniors on the preseason list, along with 16 sophomores.  In January, the Naismith Trophy voting academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, will narrow its pre-season list to the Top 30 players in the nation. Those players, and others who distinguish themselves throughout the season, will be eligible for the final ballot in March. Beginning in mid-February, CBS' "AT&T at the Half" will feature a weekly Naismith Trophy update highlighting the players in contention. In April, the Naismith Trophy winner will be recognized at the NCAA Mens Final Four in San Antonio.

The Nov. 11 loss at Central Florida snapped Nevada’s streak of four consecutive season-opening victories. Prior to the loss, the Wolf Pack had won 12 of its last 13 season openers dating back to the 1994-95 season and had not opened the year with a loss since falling at San Diego 77-75 on Nov. 23, 2002 to start the 2002-03 campaign. That 2002 game also marked the last time that Nevada had played on the road in its first game of the year.
 Including this year’s game at UCF, the Wolf Pack now holds a 52-43 all-time record in season openers, while fourth-year head coach Mark Fox is 3-1 in his first four season openers. Last year, Nevada turned in an 85-62 victory over Alaska-Anchorage on Nov. 10, 2006 at Lawlor Events Center. In 2005-06, Nevada started the year with an 82-74 win over Sacramento State on Nov. 19, 2005 at Lawlor Events Center, while the team downed Colorado-Colorado Springs 88-33 on Nov. 20, 2004 to give Fox his first win as a collegiate head coach.

With a 14-2 mark in conference action, Nevada captured sole possession of the 2007 Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship, besting second-place New Mexico State by three games. That marked the third straight season that Nevada has won the title outright and the fourth consecutive year that the team has won a share of the regular-season conference crown. Nevada turned in a 13-3 mark to win the title last season, while the Wolf Pack won the regular-season crown with a WAC-record 16-2 conference mark in 2004-05. In 2003-04, Nevada tied for first with UTEP with a 13-5 record in WAC play.

With its 77-71 overtime victory over Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Nevada set the school record for wins in a single season with 29. That surpassed the previous mark of 28 set by the 1945-46 Wolf Pack squad, which went 28-5 under the direction of legendary coach Jake Lawlor. The team’s 29-5 record and .853 winning percentage tied for sixth-best in the nation. Including the 29-5 record in 2006-07, Nevada has now notched four consecutive seasons with at least 25 wins (25-9 in 2003-04, 25-7 in 2004-05, 27-6 in 2005-06) and has turned in a 106-27 record since the beginning of the 2003-04 season (.797 winning percentage). With its victory at Louisiana Tech on Jan. 31, 2007, the Wolf Pack also reached 20 wins faster than any team in school history, needing just 22 games to achieve the milestone (the ninth 20-win season in school history).

With its trip to New Orleans in 2007, Nevada made its sixth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance (second at-large selection) and its fourth consecutive trip to the "Big Dance." Last year marked the third time in four years that the Wolf Pack advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while the team holds a 4-6 overall record in NCAA Tournament games (2-3 under Mark Fox).
 Last season, the Wolf Pack downed No. 24 Creighton 77-71 in overtime in the first round before falling to fifth-ranked Memphis in the second. In 2006, Nevada fell to Montana in the NCAA first round, while in 2005, Nevada advanced to the NCAA second round, defeating Texas before falling to eventual national runner-up Illinois in Indianapolis, Ind. In 2004, Nevada made the school's first trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, knocking off Michigan State and Gonzaga in the first and second rounds in Seattle, Wash., before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Georgia Tech in the regional semifinals in St. Louis, Mo.

Luke Babbitt of Reno, Nev., London Giles of Dallas, Texas, and Mark McLaughlin of Kenmore, Wash., have signed national letters of intent to study and play basketball at the University of Nevada beginning in 2008-09, fourth-year head coach Mark Fox announced on Nov. 14.
 Nevada’s fall signing class is listed among the best in the nation. has the Wolf Pack’s recruiting class ranked 22nd in the nation, while lists the Wolf Pack 23rd in the country. also listed the best signing player at each position for each conference, and Giles was listed as the best point guard coming into the Western Athletic Conference, McLaughlin as the best shooting guard and Babbitt as the best power forward.
 A 6-8, 220-pound power forward, Babbitt comes to Nevada from Galena High School in Reno. Last year, he was named the 2007 Northern 4A Region Co-Player of the Year with current Wolf Pack freshman Armon Johnson. He averaged 27.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and led Galena to the 2007 Nevada state championship last season. Babbitt was voted No. 3 on the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s prestigious “Best of the West” team and is listed as the 24th-best player in the country by
 Giles is a 6-3, 180-pound guard out of Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas. He was named the District 14 4A Newcomer of the Year last season after leading his team to a 23-10 record. Giles averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 assists per game as a junior and is listed as the 14th-best player in the state of Texas by
 McLaughlin is a 6-5, 175-pound guard from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash. He was the second-leading scorer in King County 4A last year with 24 points per game. McLaughlin is listed among the top 100 players in the country by the national recruiting services, including the 16th-best shooting guard in the country by, and also checked in at No. 14 on this year’s Long Beach Press-Telegram’s “Best in the West” team.
The University of Nevada has been selected to host the 2009 and 2010 Western Athletic Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.
 The university and the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) will play host to the tournaments at the 11,536-seat Lawlor Events Center, located on the university campus in Reno. The 2009 tournament will be played March 10-14, and the 2010 tournament will run from March 9-13.
 That will mark the third and fourth times that Nevada will serve as host to the WAC’s basketball tournaments with the event being held in Reno in 2005 and 2006. As a member of the Big West Conference, Nevada also served as the host of the conference tournament five years from 1996-2000.

Fourth-year Wolf Pack head men’s basketball coach Mark Fox will appear at Nevada’s Time-Out Luncheons monthly at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno.
 This year’s remaning luncheons will take place on Monday, Dec. 3, Monday, January 7 and Monday, Feb. 4. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the cost is $13 per person at the door.
 The luncheons will feature a gourmet buffet prepared by the Silver Legacy, and the program includes game recaps and previews by Fox as well as appearances by other Wolf Pack coaches and staff.

Following Saturday’s game at UNLV, Nevada returns to Lawlor Events Center on Wednesday, Nov. 28 to continue its 15-game home slate and play host to California. The team will then head to Stockton, Calif., to take on Pacific on Saturday, Dec. 1.



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