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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawlor Events Center (11,536) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: NevadaWolfPack.tv. Home Record: Pacific 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Away Record: Pacific 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Neutral Record: Pacific 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: Pacific 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Series Record: Pacific leads, 53-45.
GAME NOTES: The Nevada Wolf Pack and Pacific Tigers rekindle a relationship that dates back nearly a century, as the squads get together for the 2013-14 season opener on Friday night at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Pacific, which now represents the West Coast Conference after playing over in the Big West, posted a record of 22-13 a year ago overall, dominating at home where it was 13-2 at the Spanos Center. The Tigers put up a 13-5 mark in conference play, eventually winning the conference tournament title with a 64-55 triumph over UC Irvine.
However, Pacific's trip to the NCAA Tournament was short-lived as the squad suffered a 78-49 setback versus second-seeded Miami in Austin, Texas. The defeat was the last in the illustrious career of head coach Bob Thomason, who made way for new head coach Ron Verlin with his retirement. Thomason, the winningest coach in Pacific and Big West Conference history, finished with 437 victories after his 25th and final season at the school.
The Wolf Pack used to be a dominant force over in the WAC, but last year the group was simply dreadful as it produced an overall record of 12-19 and finished ninth in the Mountain West with a mere three wins in 16 chances. Under David Carter, who is now in his fifth season as head coach, Nevada lost eight straight games to close out 2012-13 and 11 of the final 12 decisions overall. The lone victory during the dreadful run was a narrow 74-69 triumph versus Air Force at home the second week of February.
Pacific has dominated the series of late, taking five of the last six encounters, including last year's meeting, 78-72, albeit in overtime. Overall, the Tigers own a 53-45 advantage over Nevada.
Last season, the Tigers had only one player who scored in double figures, Lorenzo McCloud, and he is no longer around. Then again, finding someone to replace his 11.1 ppg shouldn't be terribly hard, although Pacific no longer has second-leading scorer, Travis Fulton (9.4 ppg) either, leaving Sama Taku is the top returning option for the program after he produced 8.1 ppg on a mere 38.0 percent shooting from the floor.
Also aiming to become more relevant at the offensive end of the floor are Ross Rivera and Tony Gill who bring senior leadership to the front line. Rivera (7.6 ppg) started just seven games a year ago and averaging less than 18 minutes per game, so the hope is that increased time will also bring more points. Gill (7.2 ppg) was also nearly a full-time reserve who played even less (17.4 minutes per game) and contributed similar offensive numbers for a team that ranked seventh in the league in scoring with just 67.0 ppg.
The Wolf Pack has lost three starters from a year ago, one of whom was a leading scorer in Malik Story (16.7 ppg). Also on that list are Kevin Panzer and Jordan Burris, but with a combined 11.5 ppg they weren't nearly as vital as Story. Considered one of the top guards in the country, Deonte Burton will now have to carry Nevada more so than he did a year ago. Burton was responsible for 16.7 ppg as a starter in all 31 games for the Pack, and while he led the program with 112 assists and 42 steals, Burton wasn't nearly the same perimeter threat on offense that Story was, as the latter accounted for 83 of the team's 183 three-point baskets.
Jerry Evans Jr. (7.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Marqueze Coleman (4.5 ppg) will help to balance the scales a little bit at the offensive end of the floor, but a major concern for the Pack has to be their defense which ranked 290th in the country as it allowed opponents to shoot 45.3 percent from the floor, not to mention 37.3 percent beyond the arc (317th).
A lack of scoring punch will work against the Tigers for sure this season, and it will certainly be an issue coming right out of the gate on Friday night in the Silver State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 73, Pacific 62
11/08 10:40:32 ET
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