Men's Hoops Travels to Top-Ranked Carolina Thursday


Dec. 27, 2007 - 7:05 p.m. ET (4:05 p.m. PT) - Dean E. Smith Center (21,800) - Chapel Hill, N.C.

 Dave Pasch (play-by-play) & Len Elmore (color analyst)
RADIO:  Wolf Pack Sports Network (ESPN Radio 630 AM, Reno)
 Don Marchand (play-by-play)
 Pregame, 6:35 p.m. ET (3:35 p.m. PT)
SERIES HISTORY: North Carolina leads the all-time series 2-0.
LAST MEETING: North Carolina turned in a 109-86 victory on Feb. 21, 1989 in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the last meeting between the two teams.

Following a 55-52 win at Northern Iowa on Saturday, the four-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Nevada Wolf Pack (7-4) returns to action on Thursday, traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (11-0). Thursday’s contest will tip off at 7:05 p.m. Eastern Time (4:05 p.m. Pacific Time) at the 21,800-seat Dean E. Smith Center and will be televised nationally by ESPN2 with Dave Pasch and Len Elmore calling the action. The Wolf Pack brings a five-game winning streak into Thursday’s game and plays its second consecutive road game. The team has won on the road twice this year and in 21 of its last 29 contests away from home dating back to midway through the 2005-06 season. The Wolf Pack has already played five road games this season, including four of its first six contests, and counting this week’s trip to and from North Carolina, the team has already racked up over 15,000 frequent-flier miles this season. Following Thursday’s game with the Tar Heels, the Wolf Pack returns home to wrap up the non-conference slate with Cal State Stanislaus on Dec. 31. Nevada opens WAC play on Saturday, Jan. 5 at Lawlor Events Center, playing host to Utah State.
 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 21 of its last 29 games away from the friendly confines of Lawlor Events Center, including 17 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 five of its last nine regular-season road contests and 16 of its last 21 and holds a 2-3 road mark this season. 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 33-10 record in road contests (76.7 winning percentage).
 According to a story by’s Kyle Whelliston, the Wolf Pack will travel the third-most miles of any team in the country this season (21,009 miles), behind just fellow WAC schools Hawai’i (38,621) and New Mexico State (24,941). The team played four of its first six games away from home and has already logged five road contests and 10,553 miles traveled, counting last week’s 3,418-mile roundtrip jaunt to Northern Iowa. This week’s cross-country trip to North Carolina will add another 5,278 miles to the Pack’s resume (2,639 miles each way), bringing the total to 15,831 miles traveled already this year.
 The year began with a season-opening two-game road trip to UCF and UC Irvine and trips to UNLV and Pacific. 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.

Thursday’s game will mark the third time in five years that Nevada will take on the nation’s top-ranked team. In 2003-04, the Wolf Pack traveled to then No. 1 Connecticut in the Preseason NIT and fell to the Huskies 93-79 on Nov. 19, 2003 in Storrs, Conn. The following year, Nevada met then No. 1 Illinois in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, dropping a 71-59 decision to the Fighting Illini on March 19, 2005 in Indianapolis, Ind.

Over the last four-plus seasons dating back to 2003-04, Nevada has turned in a 113-31 record, the best record of any WAC team during that time (.785 winning percentage). In conference games, Nevada has won 56 games, the most in that same time period.

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.

No. 1/1 North Carolina has turned in a perfect 11-0 record this season, most recently downing Nicholls State 88-78 on Dec. 19 and UC Santa Barbara 105-70 on Dec. 22. Under the direction of fifth-year Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams (117-30 record at UNC), the Tar Heels are 4-0 at home in the Dean Smith Center this season. North Carolina returned three starters and 11 letterwinners from last year’s 31-7 NCAA Elite Eight team. The Tar Heels tied for first in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year with an 11-5 league mark.
 One of the preseason favorites for National Player of the Year, junior forward Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250) is leading North Carolina in scoring and rebounding this season, turning in 21.7 points and 9.7 boards per game. He is also knocking down a team-best 55.8 percent of his field goal attempts on the year. Sophomore guard Wayne Ellington (6-4, 200) is second on the squad with 17.2 points per game and has made 40.4 of his three-point attempts on the year (21-52). Sophomore forward Deon Thompson (6-8, 240) checks in at second on the team in rebounding at 5.5 boards per contest. As a team, North Carolina is turning a gaudy 91.4 points per game and outscoring its opponents by an average of 21.3 points per game. The Tar Heels are shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc (58-163).

North Carolina holds a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series with Nevada. The Tar Heels turned in a 115-91 win over Nevada on Dec. 30, 1988 in Reno and a 109-86 victory on Feb. 25, 1989 in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the two meetings between the teams. This year’s game marks the beginning of a 2-for-1 series that will see the Tar Heels travel to Reno and Nevada return to Chapel Hill. The future meetings will be scheduled at a later date.
 The Wolf Pack holds a 1-8 all-time record against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, most recently falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Georgia Tech 72-67 on March 26, 2004 in St. Louis, Mo. That loss ended Nevada’s magical run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen that year.

Nevada head coach Mark Fox is more than a little familiar with North Carolina head coach Roy Williams after spending the 1993-94 season observing Williams’ University of Kansas basketball program while working toward his master’s degree. Fox earned his master’s degree in athletic administration/sports psychology in 1996. He then spent six seasons as an assistant on Tom Asbury’s staff at Kansas State University from 1994-2000. Wolf Pack fans were also treated this summer when Williams served as the keynote speaker at Nevada’s annual Governor’s Dinner in Carson City.
 The Wolf Pack roster features one player from the state of North Carolina in Charlotte native and true freshman forward Malik Cooke. An all-state and all-conference selection in each of his last two years, Cooke attended Christ School in Arden, N.C., where he led his team to 3A state championships in 2005 and 2007.

Senior Marcelus Kemp scored 13 points and Demarshay Johnson added 10 to lead Nevada past Northern Iowa 55-52 Saturday, Dec. 22 at UNI’s McLeod Center.
 Nevada led by 14 points late in the second half before Northern Iowa rallied to within one. Kemp hit two free throws with one second left to expand the lead to three, and Jared Josten missed a 30-footer at the buzzer that would have tied it for Northern Iowa.
 Nevada led almost the entire game, overcoming an early deficit with a 16-4 run and taking a 31-23 halftime lead. Nevada shot 50 percent in the first half; Northern Iowa shot 27.3 percent.
 The Wolf Pack led 46-32 with about eight minutes left in the game when the Panthers rallied with a 20-7 run. Travis Brown sparked the comeback with two 3s and Eric Coleman scored 10 of the team's next 12 points.
 Coleman scored a game-high 18 points and Brown added 12.

A preseason candidate for the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy, senior guard Marcelus Kemp is leading the team and ranked second in the WAC in scoring at 19.1 points per game. He has turned in at least 20 points in four of the last six games and has led the team in scoring in five of the last six, including a season-high 28 points in a Dec. 19 win over Colorado State (22 in the second half). After leading the team in scoring in 17 games last season, including five of the final six, the sixth-year senior has paced the Wolf Pack in scoring in eight of 11 games this season. He turned in a team-high 26 points with a season-best four three-pointers Nov. 28 vs. California and notched his second career double-double with a game-best 20 points and a career-high-tying 12 rebounds Dec. 1 at Pacific. He also led the team with 23 points and three treys in the Dec. 8 win over Montana State. Kemp is tied for first on the team with sophomore Brandon Fields with 21 three-pointers made this year and is tied for seventh in the WAC with 1.91 treys per game. Kemp has moved into third on the Nevada career list with 178 three-pointers made.
 With his 13 points Dec. 22 at Northern Iowa, Kemp turned in his 21st consecutive game in double figures for scoring (all 11 this year) and the 73rd of his career. Dating back to the latter part of the 2005-06 season, Kemp’s sophomore year, he has scored in double figures in 52 of the last 54 games. He has also moved into eighth place on the Nevada career scoring list with 1,490 career points and needs 14 more to catch Darryl Owens (1986-89) who currently sits in seventh with 1,504 career points.

Sophomore JaVale McGee and the Wolf Pack continue to lead the WAC in blocked shots per game. McGee is averaging a league-best 3.45 blocks per game, 1.88 blocks per game ahead of New Mexico State’s Martin Iti (1.57), and ranks eighth in the NCAA in the category. He swatted a career-best seven shots Saturday at Northern Iowa and has blocked six in two other games this season (Nov. 18 vs. Cal and Nov. 11 at UCF). He added five blocks Dec. 12 vs. San Diego. McGee has blocked at least one shot in all 11 games (nine with two or more). With 68 career blocks in just 44 games (1.55 per game), McGee has already moved into ninth on the Nevada career list, moving past Kirk Snyder who had 63 in 84 career games from 2001-04. Last season, McGee 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 and ranks eighth in the nation with an average of 7.00 blocks per game, including a season-best 10 in the Dec. 19 win over Colorado State and nine Dec. 12 vs. San Diego and again Dec. 22 at Northern Iowa. Senior Demarshay Johnson is second on the team and tied for third in the league in the category with 1.55 blocks per game, including a career-high six swats in the Dec. 19 victory over Colorado State.

The Dec. 17 WAC Player of the Week, sophomore Brandon Fields has turned in career highs for scoring in two of his last four games, including 17 points in the Dec. 12 win over San Diego and a career-best 22 in the Dec. 16 win over UCF. Fields is leading the team and ranked fifth in the WAC in three-point percentage at 45.7 percent (21-46). He is tied for first with senior Marcelus Kemp on the team with 21 three-pointers made this year and is tied for seventh in the WAC in three-pointers made (1.91 per game). Fields has knocked down at least one three-pointer in 10 of 11 games this year (four with three or more).
 He turned in career highs for three-pointers made in back-to-back games against Cal and Pacific. He made a then career-best 3-of-6 treys Nov. 28 vs. Cal and then bested that mark Dec. 1 at Pacific, knocking down a career-high four three-pointers (4-of-8). He knocked down another trio of three-pointers Dec. 12 vs. San Diego and matched his career high with four three-pointers Dec. 16 vs. UCF (4-of-6 from three-point land). Fields made just three three-pointers and shot just 27.3 percent from beyond the arc last season (3-11).

Nevada scored a season-high 86 points in its Dec. 16 victory over UCF. Before scoring a season-low 55 points in Saturday’s victory at Northern Iowa, Nevada had turned in four of its five highest scoring outputs of the year in its previous four games. After averaging 67.5 points in the first six contests of the year, the Wolf Pack has averaged 74.6 points per game in its last five, including the season-high 86 points vs. UCF and 82 in its Dec. 8 victory over Montana State. Nevada now ranks third in the WAC in scoring at 70.7 points per game.

Nevada has turned in four of its most solid shooting efforts of the year in its last five games. The team has made 47.7 percent of its attempts from the field in its last five outings (122-256), including 38.7 percent of its attempts from beyond the three-point arc (29-75). Nevada notched season highs for three-point shooting (43.8 percent, 7-16 - since broken) and free throw shooting (82.1) and turned in its third 50-percent showing from the field (51.8) in its Dec. 8 win over Montana State. The team just missed the 50-percent mark at 49.1 percent and had another solid three-point effort (41.2 percent, 7-17) Dec. 12 vs. San Diego.  Dec. 16 vs. UCF, Nevada turned in its best three-point night of the year, making 46.7 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc (7-15) and shot 46.2 percent from the field, while the team shot 48.1 percent (60.0 percent in the second half, 15-25) Dec. 19 vs. Colorado State. Prior to the last five games, Nevada had shot just 37.2 percent from the field in its previous two. Led by senior Demarshay who checks in at fifth in the WAC at 58.6 percent, Nevada ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage this season (46.1 percent) and made a season-best 56.9 percent of its attempts Nov. 13 at UC Irvine
 After leading the WAC and ranking 10th in the nation in three-point shooting at 40.6 percent last year, the Wolf Pack struggled to find its touch from beyond the arc early this season but is starting to shoot the long ball with more consistency. Nevada checks in at sixth in the WAC at 33.9 percent from three-point land this season (60-177) but has made 38.7 percent of its long-range attempts in the last three games (29-75). Nevada made a season-high 46.7 percent of its three-point attempts (7-15) in its Dec. 16 win over UCF and knocked down a season-best eight treys Nov. 28 vs. Cal. Nevada has made at least seven three-pointers in five of its last seven games (Pacific, Montana State, San Diego and UCF).

Three members of the Wolf Pack are averaging in doubles figures for scoring this year, led by senior guard Marcelus Kemp who ranks second in the WAC at 19.1 points per game. Kemp has led the team in scoring in eight of 11 games this year, including six of the last seven. Sophomore JaVale McGee is adding 12.9 points per game (11th in the WAC) with a career-high 20 at UC Irvine and again at UNLV, while sophomore Brandon Fields is adding 12.5 points per tilt (12th in the WAC), including a career-best 22 points Dec. 16 vs. UCF. Fields checks in at 10th in the WAC statistics in scoring. True freshman Armon Johnson is just shy of double figures with 9.7 points per game.
 Nevada saw all five of its starters score in double figures for the first time this year on Dec. 12 vs. the Toreros, while it had four players notch double figures for scoring in its victory over Montana State on Dec. 8 and again Dec. 16 vs. UCF. The team has seen at least four players in double figures in a total of four games this year (UC Irvine was the other). Nevada also got a season-high 24 points from its bench in the Dec. 8 win over Montana State, including  a season-high seven by senior David Ellis and five from sophomore Ray Kraemer, the first points of Kraemer’s Wolf Pack career. Dec. 12 against San Diego, sophomore Matt LaGrone tallied a career-best 12 points, while true freshman Malik Cooke added a career-high seven, including his first career three-pointer.
Nevada has seen three different players turn in its four double-doubles this season. Most recently, sophomore JaVale McGee added his second of the season with 15 points and a career-best 18 rebounds Dec. 16 vs. UCF. McGee has just missed two other double-doubles with 19 points and nine rebounds Nov. 28 vs. Cal and 11 points and nine rebounds Dec. 19 vs. Colorado State. Senior Marcelus Kemp tallied his second career double-double with 20 points and a career-high-tying 12 rebounds Dec. 1 at Pacific. McGee nabbed his first career double-double Nov. 24 at UNLV, matching his career best with 20 points and pulling down a then career-high 13 rebounds, while senior Demarshay Johnson turned in his first career double-double with 12 points and a career-high 11 boards Nov. 13 at UC Irvine.

- After missing the first 10 games of the season due to academic ineligibility, junior guard Lyndale Burleson made the most of his return to the court on Saturday’s win at Northern Iowa. Burleson turned in eight points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes. He also matched his career best by knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the victory over the Panthers.

- The Wolf Pack defense held Northern Iowa to a season-low 52 points in Saturday’s victory, season lows both for a Wolf Pack opponent and the Panthers this year. Nevada has won 48 of its last 50 games when holding its opponent to 60 points or less, including a 13-1 record in 2005-06, a 6-1 mark last year and a 2-0 record this season.

- After turning in a career-best 18 rebounds Dec. 16 vs. UCF, adding a team-best nine Dec. 19 vs. CSU and pulling down a game-high 12 boards Saturday at Northern Iowa, sophomore JaVale McGee has jumped from ninth to first in the WAC statistics with 8.7 rebounds per game (96 rebounds). He checks in three rebounds ahead of Matt Nelson of Boise State, who has turned in 8.5 boards per game (93). McGee’s 18 rebounds vs. UCF marked the most for the Pack since Nick Fazekas had 18 rebounds in Nevada’s Jan. 27, 2007 win over Utah State. McGee has led the team in rebounding in eight games this season, including each of the last four.

- Nevada tied Northern Iowa in the battle of the boards on Saturday with 35 for each team, but the Wolf Pack had outrebounded each of its previous four opponents and a total of six teams this season (5-1 record in those games). Nevada pulled down a season-high 47 rebounds in the Dec. 16 win over UCF (47-28 edge) and turned in a 39-31 advantage over Colorado State on Dec. 19. The team outrebounded Montana State 32-30 on Dec. 8, marking the first time that the Bobcats didn’t win the battle of the boards in their first eight games and turned in a 41-37 advantage Dec. 12 vs. San Diego. Prior to the last five games, the Wolf Pack had been outrebounded in three of its previous four games and a total of four times this season. In three of those games, Nevada had been outboarded by a total of just five combined rebounds (40-39 UCF, 27-25 vs. Santa Clara and 38-36 at Pacific).

- Nevada has climbed to second in the WAC in rebounding offense and margin with 37.7 rebounds and +4.4 boards per contest this year. 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). In its Nov. 13 win at UC Irvine, the Wolf Pack outboarded the Anteaters 43-20 for a season-best 23-board advantage, including a 14-7 edge on the offensive glass. Senior Marcelus Kemp is second on the team at 5.8 rebounds per game.

- Nevada’s starting lineup in the last four games (all wins) has featured just one senior (Marcelus Kemp), three sophomores (Matt LaGrone, JaVale McGee, Brandon Fields) and one true freshman (Armon Johnson).

- Senior Marcelus Kemp scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half Dec. 19 vs. Colorado State and has turned in 56.5 percent of his points in the second halves of games this season (117-207). He had 17 of 24 points in the second half Dec. 16 vs. UCF, while in the first three games of the year, he scored 75.9 percent of his points in the final 20 minutes of games, including 16 of 23 Nov. 17 vs. Santa Clara, 10 of 12 Nov. 13 at UC Irvine and 15 of 19 Nov. 11 at UCF.

- Sophomore Matt LaGrone has made the most of his first five career starts, averaging 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in the last five contests. He had four points and two rebounds in his first career start on Dec. 8 vs. Montana State, while he turned in a career-high 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and added four rebounds and a career-high three assists on Dec. 12 vs. San Diego. He tied his season best with five rebounds on Saturday at Northern Iowa.

- The Wolf Pack features three players ranked in the league’s top 10 for assists this year. Sophomore Brandon Fields is fifth in the WAC at 3.45 assists per game, while freshman Armon Johnson is tied for eighth (3.00) and senior Marcelus Kemp is 10th (2.91). On Nov. 28 vs. California, Johnson had a team- and career-best six assists, Fields has tied his career high with five assists four times this season and Kemp turned in a season-best five Dec. 12 vs. San Diego. Fields and Johnson are also ranked in the WAC’s top 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio with Fields checking in at fifth (1.52) and Johnson eighth (1.32).

- Nevada is ranked third in the WAC in free throw percentage this year at 70.7 percent, while sophomore Brandon Fields checks in at sixth in the WAC at 82.1 percent. Senior Marcelus Kemp is seventh in the WAC at 81.0 percent, including 11-of-13 in Nevada’s Dec. 19 win over Colorado State. The Wolf Pack turned in its best free throw shooting effort of the year on Dec. 8 vs. Montana State, making 82.1 percent of its attempts from the charity stripe against the Bobcats (23-28). That marked the team’s third 80-percent effort of the season.

- Nevada opened the year with a 2-4 record for the first time since the 2002-03 season (now 7-4). That season, Nevada played five of its first seven games on the road and turned in a 2-5 mark before winning its next three contests. The 2002-03 team finished with an 18-14 record and made a trip to the postseason NIT, the first of five consecutive postseason appearances for the Wolf Pack (one NIT bid and four NCAA appearances). In 2003-04, Nevada opened the year with a 2-3 mark before reeling off wins in its next five games and seven of its next eight. The Wolf Pack finished with a 25-9 record that season, winning its first of four WAC regular-season championships and making the first NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history.

- The Dec. 8 victory over Montana State snapped the Wolf Pack’s first three-game losing streak since dropping five straight contests at the end of the 2000-01 season. The Nov. 28 loss to Cal marked Nevada’s first back-to-back losses in the same season since 2005-06. The Wolf Pack lost its second-round NCAA game to Memphis last year and opened this season with a 63-60 loss at UCF on Nov. 11, but the team had not dropped back-to-back losses in the same season since falling to Fresno State and Utah State in January of 2006. Head coach Mark Fox’s squads have dropped back-to-back games just five times in his three-plus seasons and hold a 16-6 record following a loss in his tenure.

- 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.

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 88-22 career record in his three-plus seasons at the helm of the Wolf Pack program (.800 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.

Following Thursday’s game at No. 1/1 North Carolina, Nevada will wrap up its non-conference slate with a New Year’s Eve contest vs. Cal State Stanislaus in Reno. The four-time defending Western Athletic Conference regular-season champions open league play with a game against conference co-favorite Utah State on Saturday, Jan. 5 at Lawlor Events Center.



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