NEVADA WOLF PACK (2-2) at PORTLAND PILOTS (3-1)
Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 - 7 p.m. PT - Chiles Center (4,852) - Portland, Ore.
TELEVISION: Live internet streaming at www.stretchinternet.com/portlandvideohtml? ($8 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), pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m. PT
SERIES HISTORY: Portland leads the all-time series with Nevada 22-18.
LAST MEETING: Portland won the last meeting between the two teams, turning in an 86-70 victory over Nevada on Dec. 4, 2003, in Portland, Ore.
Coming off a 67-59 loss to Pacific on Wednesday, the five-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Nevada Wolf Pack (2-2) returns to the road for a pair of games this weekend starting with the Portland Pilots (3-1) on Saturday, Nov. 29. Saturday’s game at Portland’s Chiles Center will tip off at 7 p.m. Pacific and can be heard on Nevada’s radio flagship, ESPN 630 AM, and affiliates with Ryan Radtke calling the action. The Wolf Pack started the season with two road games and is playing four of its first six away from home. Following Saturday night’s game at Portland, Nevada travels to Colorado State on Tuesday, Dec. 2 to conclude that stretch. The team will then return home for four straight contests and seven of its next eight.
Under the direction of fifth-year head coach Mark Fox, the Wolf Pack returns two starters and a total of seven letterwinners from last year’s 21-12 team, including the coaches’ preseason WAC Player of the Year Armon Johnson who started 32 of 33 games last season as a true freshman. This year’s team also features five new faces (a junior college transfer and four true freshmen). Last season, Nevada turned in its fifth consecutive year with at least 20 wins, won its fifth straight WAC regular-season title and earned the team’s six consecutive postseason appearance with an invitation to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational.
ON THE ROAD
Nevada has won 28 of its last 44 games away from the friendly confines of Lawlor Events Center, including 23 road wins and five neutral-site victories (dating back to midway through the 2005-06 season). In 2006-07, 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 11 of its last 21 regular-season road contests and 22 of its last 33 and turned in a 7-9 road mark last season. In 2006-07, 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 four-plus seasons since the start of the 2004-05 campaign, the Wolf Pack has tallied a 39-17 record in road contests (.696 winning percentage). That includes a 26-8 record in WAC road games (.765).
ABOUT THE PORTLAND PILOTS
Portland has opened the season with a 3-1 mark and has won its last two games, including a 77-58 home victory over Yale on Nov. 21 and a 75-72 win at UC Davis on Nov. 23. Under the direction of third-year head coach Eric Reveno (21-46 record at Portland), the Pilots return four starters and nine letterwinners from last year's 9-23 squad. The Tigers finished seventh in the West Coast Conference with a 3-11 league mark one year ago.
Junior guard Nik Raivio (6-4, 200) is leading Portland in scoring with 17.8 points per game. He is one of three Pilots in double figures for scoring and is joined by junior forward Robin Smeulders (6-10, 240) at 15.0 points per game and junior guard T.J. Campbell (5-9, 190), a junior college All-American at Glendale CC last year, at 10.8. Raivio is also the Pilots’ top rebounder and is pulling down 6.5 boards per game. As a team, Portland is averaging 77.0 points per game and shooting 51.4 percent from the field.
IN THE SERIES
Portland leads the all-time series with Nevada 22-18, while Saturday night’s meeting will be the first for the two teams since the 2003-04 season. The Pilots won the last meeting, turning in an 86-70 on Dec. 4, 2003 in Portland. Prior to that, the Wolf Pack had won four straight contests in the series.
Nevada is 148-211 all time against teams from the West Coast Conference and spent 10 seasons as a member of that league (1969-70 to 1978-79). The Wolf Pack has won five of its last six games against squads from the WCC, including victories over Santa Clara and USD last year and three wins in 2006-07 (at Santa Clara, vs. Saint Mary's and vs. Gonzaga in the Battle in Seattle). Earlier this year, Nevada dropped a 65-51 decision at San Diego on Nov. 18.
LAST TIME OUT
Freshman Luke Babbitt scored 19 points and sophomore Malik Cooke had 13 for the Wolf Pack in Wednesday’s 67-59 loss to Pacific at Lawlor Events Center.
Bryan LeDuc scored 23 points to lead Pacific, while Terrel Smith added 15 points and Anthony Brown 10 for the Tigers.
With Nevada leading 30-27 with 15:07 left in the game, LeDuc sparked a 28-8 run by Pacific. He scored 12 points in the run, capping it with a short jumper that put the Tigers ahead 51-38 with 8:30 left.
The Wolf Pack responded with an 11-4 run to pull to within six at 55-49 with 4:50 left but could get no closer.
The Tigers put the game away with free throws down the stretch.
Pacific limited Nevada to 39.6 percent shooting for the game. The Wolf Pack was 21 of 53 from the field, including 4 of 20 from behind the 3-point line.
LeDuc banked in a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and give Pacific a 23-22 lead at the half.
WOLF PACK NEWS & NOTES
- Freshman Luke Babbitt is leading the Wolf Pack and ranked in the WAC’s top 10 in scoring and rebounding early this season. He is tied for ninth in the league with 15.5 points per game and is tied for seventh in the WAC with 8.3 rebounds per game. He has turned in a pair of career-high 20-point efforts on the season (at Montana State and vs. Oregon State) and has led the team in scoring in three of four games.
- Babbitt leads four Wolf Pack players in double figures for scoring this season. Junior Joey Shaw and sophomore Malik Cooke are each turning in 11.5 points per game followed by sophomore Armon Johnson at 11.0.
- Sophomore Armon Johnson dished out a career-high 11 assists in the Nov. 22 win over Oregon State to lead Nevada’s season-high 20-assist effort. Johnson also added 11 points for his first career double-double vs. the Beavers and the Wolf Pack’s first points-assists double-double since Ramon Sessions had 11 points and 10 assists in an 84-66 victory over Boise State on Jan. 15, 2005. After turning in seven assists (and only one turnover) Wednesday vs. Pacific, Johnson ranks second in the WAC with 6.25 assists per game this year and has the conference’s best assist-to-turnover ratio (4.17, 25 assists and only six turnovers). As a team, Nevada is second in the WAC with a 1.08 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Nevada ranks third in the WAC in free throw percentage, hitting 72.4 percent of its attempts from the charity stripe so far this season (63-87). Junior Ray Kraemer is leading the WAC in free throw percentage, making all eight of his free throw attempts on the year. Junior Joey Shaw is shooting 87.5 percent from the line (7-9), while freshman Luke Babbitt has made 14-of-18 (.778) and sophomore Malik Cooke is 16-of-21 (.762).
- The Wolf Pack shot a season-high 45.8 percent from the field (27-59), including a season-best 45.0 percent clip from three-point land (9-20), in its Nov. 22 win over Oregon State. The team made 5-of-8 of its three-point attempts in the second half against the Beavers. The Wolf Pack has shot just 35.4 percent overall (62-175)and 20.0 percent from three-point land (11-55) in its other three games this season.
- Nevada is averaging 13.5 offensive rebounds per contest this year, which ranks third in the WAC. The team pulled down a season-high 18 offensive boards in its Nov. 15 season opener at Montana State and had 15 Wednesday vs. Pacific. Freshman Luke Babbitt ranks second in the league with 3.5 offensive rebounds per game, while sophomore Malik Cooke is fourth at 3.25.
- The Wolf Pack turned in a season-high 12 steals in its Nov. 22 win over Oregon State with four by junior Joey Shaw and three apiece by freshman Luke Babbitt and sophomore Malik Cooke. Shaw and Cooke are tied for fourth in the WAC with 1.8 steals per game each. As a team, Nevada is tied for second in the WAC stats with 7.75 steals per contest.
The Wolf Pack returns two starters and seven letterwinners from last year’s 21-12 team, including sophomore guard Armon Johnson. The 2008 WAC Freshman of the Year, Johnson started 32 of 33 games last season and finished fourth on the team with 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He also led the team and ranked sixth in the WAC with 3.4 assists per contest. Other returning letterwinners includer senior guard Lyndale Burleson, junior guards Brandon Fields and Ray Kraemer, junior forward Richie Phillips and sophomore forwards Malik Cooke and Adam Carp.
Nevada’s roster features five new faces in junior Joey Shaw and true freshmen Luke Babbitt, London Giles, Dario Hunt and Ahyaro Phillips. Shaw started his collegiate career at Indiana University and comes to Nevada after earning second-team all-conference honors at the College of Southern Idaho last season. Babbitt was named a McDonald's All-American honors at Reno's Galena High School last season, while Giles comes to Nevada from Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas, where he was named the offensive MVP of his district and a second-team all-area selection by the Dallas Morning News. Hunt earned all-league honors at Charis Prep School in Goldsboro, N.C., after averaging a double-double, while Phillips graduated from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy where he averaged a double-double as a senior.
PACK PICKED TO WIN WAC BY COACHES AND MEDIA
Nevada has been picked to win the Western Athletic Conference in 2008-09 by the league’s coaches and media, while sophomore guard Armon Johnson, freshman forward Luke Babbitt and junior guard Brandon Fields garnered individual recognition.
The Wolf Pack received seven first-place votes and 63 points from the coaches, while in the media poll, Nevada received 255 points and 20 first-place votes.
Johnson was named the WAC Preseason Player of the Year by the league’s nine coaches, while Babbitt was the media’s pick for Preseason Newcomer of the Year. Johnson earned first-team preseason honors from both the media and the coaches, while Babbitt and Fields were second-team selections by the coaches.
FOX RETURNS FOR FIFTH SEASON
Nevada head coach Mark Fox holds a 104-32 career record in four-plus seasons at the helm of the Wolf Pack program (.765 winning percentage) and is already fourth in all-time wins at Nevada. He is the first coach in school history to lead his squad to four consecutive 20-win seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Nevada’s March 1, 2008 victory over Louisiana Tech gave Fox the 100th win of his career. He tied for 21st on the NCAA's list of fastest coaches to reach 100 wins (among coaches with at least half of their seasons at the Division I level). Duke's Vic Bubas also took 128 wins to reach the milestone, doing it in his fifth season (1964). Fox also became the fastest coach in school history to reach the 100-win plateau. It took Jake Lawlor, the winningest coach in school history, seven seasons (10th game into that season) and 168 games to hit that milestone, while Sonny Allen reached the mark in the first game of his seventh season (100 wins in 174 games). Nevada has seen three of its previous head coaches notch at least 100 wins, including Lawlor (201-159 career record), Allen (114-89) and Jack Spencer (123-199).
Fox’s 81 wins after his first three seasons 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 was 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. He was also one of 15 finalists for the 2007 Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award and was named the 2007 National Association of Basketball Coaches District 13 Coach of the Year.
After Saturday’s game at Portland, the Wolf Pack ends its stretch of four of six contests away from home at Colorado State on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Nevada will then return home for four straight games and seven of its next eight contests, starting with UNLV on Saturday, Dec. 6.