No. 6 Nevada faces tough road test at Utah

Say hello to the Rodney Dangerfield of college basketball -- the Nevada Wolf Pack.

One of only five undefeated Division I teams, Nevada is ranked No. 6 this week in the AP Top 25. The Wolf Pack were ranked sixth in the first poll, moved up to No. 5, then sank to No. 7, despite remaining perfect against quality teams.

They are back up to No. 6, but it seems like the Wolf Pack don't get the respect they deserve.

Come Saturday, the Wolf Pack will put their perfect 12-0 record on the line when they travel to Utah to take on the Utes (6-5) and coach Larry Krystkowiak, whose teams always play rugged defense.

Utah has won 21 straight games at home in December. The Wolf Pack already have defeated USC and Arizona State of the Pac-12 Conference.

This will be Nevada's third true road test -- the other two were against USC and last year's NCAA Cinderella team, Loyola of Chicago.

Perhaps the lack of respect comes from the Wolf Pack's struggles at the start of games. Their last four games have been decided by eight points or fewer -- but they won them all.

The last two wins came against underrated opponents, Akron and South Dakota State.

"I give Akron a lot of credit. They're a really tough team," Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said. "They did a phenomenal job rebounding, getting 16 on the offensive board. They did a great job of executing their game plan."

Musselman lamented that the Nevada offense was "regressing" and promised to fix the problems.

"We have to play better in the first half," he said.

Settling for 3-point shots has been a problem, Musselman said, laying the blame on the coaches and not the players.

"We keep getting worse and worse and worse and worse," a frustrated Musselman's voice tailed off. "We gotta practice better. I've been too light on them."

Nevada's preseason All-America pick Caleb Martin has been at the center of some of the offensive struggles. Nevada is just 27 of 112 from beyond the arc in their past four games.

"I just think I'm trying to focus and pinpoint my defense so much, I'm kind of forgetting how to shoot," Martin said. "I'm trying to find a balance."

Musselman makes a point, but Krystkowiak knows the Utes face a tremendous challenge.

Musselman "does a good job of blending personalities and talent," Krystkowiak said, adding that having a player like Jordan Caroline is key. Caroline is "as good a player as there is in the country," Krystkowiak said.

Caroline averages nearly a double-double, scoring 18.8 points and grabbing 9.6 rebounds per game for Nevada. Caroline has seven double-doubles in 12 games this season and the Pack is 32-2 when he posts a double-double.

Caleb Martin also averages 18.8 points per game, but has gotten off to slow starts throughout the first 12 games.

Three other redshirt seniors start: Cody Martin, Tre'Shawn Thurman and Trey Porter. A sixth redshirt senior, Corey Henson, comes off the bench, and instant offense, Jazz Johnson, is a fourth-year junior.

The Utes and Wolf Pack have played 10 times, and Utah has won every one. The Utes are 5-0 at home this season.

The Utes have won two straight and are led on offense by Sedrick Barefield and Donnie Tillman. Barefield averages 13.2 points and 3.3 assists per game. Tillman is averaging 10.1 points and 6.3 boards per game.

Utah averages 73.5 points per game and gives up 72.7. Nevada scores 82.5 a game and gives up 67.2 a game.

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