Nevada will have its best player on the court as it looks to extend its best start in 55 years.
Despite bruising his ribs in his last game, Nick Fazekas has been cleared to play Saturday when the 20th-ranked Wolf Pack host UNLV.
Fazekas was injured in Nevada’s 77-71 victory Sunday over California. The win improved the Wolf Pack to 7-0, their best start since opening the 1951-52 season with 14 straight victories.
The two-time player of the year in the Western Athletic Conference, Fazekas is averaging 22.6 points and 13.7 rebounds this season. He began practicing with the team again Thursday, wearing a padded vest that he plans to wear against the Runnin’ Rebels.
“I feel good. We played tough against Cal and I suffered a rib injury, but I’m back and ready to go,” Fazekas said. “I’m getting close to 100 percent. I should be 100 percent Saturday.
“I don’t think I’ll be gun-shy or anything like that. It’s just something that happened. I got hit hard. It’s not bothering me.”
Fazekas has never missed a game at Nevada, playing in all 106 since the 2003-04 season, and his 1,970 points are the most in school history.
UNLV coach Lon Kruger said his team has been working under the assumption Fazekas will play.
“We just prepare for him playing,” Kruger said. “We’ll prepare just as if he’s at full speed, which we expect him to be, and go from there.”
The Wolf Pack are returning home after a weeklong road trip that included games at Santa Clara and Louisiana-Lafayette as well as the matchup with Cal in the Pete Newell Challenge in San Jose, Calif. Saturday’s game opens a season-high three-game homestand for Nevada, which has won 12 straight at home dating to last season.
Marcelus Kemp scored 20 points and Ramon Sessions added 19 Sunday for the Wolf Pack, while Fazekas finished with 12 and 16 rebounds. Sessions scored 12 of his 19 points in the final 5 minutes and helped hold off a Cal rally.
“We have more guys on our team that can score besides Nick and Marcelus,” coach Mark Fox said. “One thing that my team has not done is defend well with a lead. Cal made that run, and that got our attention. I was most proud of how our team defended in the final minutes.”
UNLV (6-2) is coming off Tuesday’s 61-58 victory at Hawaii. Wendell White had team highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Runnin’ Rebels, who are wrapping up a four-game road trip.
White is averaging 15.5 points for UNLV, which shot just 36 percent and scored nearly 19 points less than its season average. The Runnin’ Rebels are 2-1 so far on their trip.
UNLV leads the all-time series between the teams 48-19, but Nevada has won the last three meetings.
“UNLV has an excellent basketball team. They’re playing well together. They’re playing with confidence,” Fox said. “I think they’re probably the best UNLV team I’ve seen in my time at Nevada, including my time as an assistant coach.”