Frustrations hinder Fazekas against Creighton

Originally Published: March 16, 2007
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- Nick Fazekas' body language on the court -- the way he walked back to the bench, the blank stares, his lingering on the fringe of the huddle as Nevada was scratching for its life against Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament -- left you wondering how much he cared about the game's outcome.

Nick Fazekas
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesNick Fazekas looks ambivalent, but is a tough competitor.
But once you got into the locker room and observed his behavior, saw him interact with his teammates, and then talked to him after the gritty 77-71 first-round Wolf Pack win, you realize that's just how Fazekas carries himself.

Fazekas is about as even as a player can be on the court and off, so no one around the Wolf Pack program was surprised he wasn't hooting and hollering, screaming and yelling his team on.

"Whether I score 30 or 25, I'm going to act the same. I'm the type of guy that needs guys around me to do that," said the 6-foot-11 senior, who did notch a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards (with six turnovers) before fouling out with three minutes left in overtime.

"That's the way I've always been, win or lose. I just stay levelheaded," said Fazekas, who decided against staying in the NBA draft after his junior season. "I'm not the type of guy who gets vocal. I keep it the same."

Well, sort of. Remember, this is the same Fazekas whose euphoric celebration after Nevada won at Kansas last season drew the ire of KU assistant coach Joe Dooley, who was caught on TV in the postgame handshake line addressing Fazekas with an obscenity.

Still, Fazekas -- named a first team All-American by ESPN.com, SI.com and the USBWA, and a three-time WAC Player of the Year (the last one was Keith Van Horn of Utah) -- can't be this out of it every day, can he?

Even though the staff says he doesn't show his emotions, clearly Nevada coach Mark Fox noticed something wasn't quite right with Fazekas. That's why he went over to him with just under two seconds left, put his arm around Fazekas' neck and talked to him. Remember, the Wolf Pack were about to win a first-round game after being upset by Montana as a No. 5 seed last season, yet Fazekas was still sitting on the bench.

"He wanted to win so badly and we couldn't get him the ball and he got into foul trouble, and I could see he was frustrated," Fox said. "I could see it in his eyes. He's never like that."

Really?

"He's not a cheerleader," Fox said. "The only time he showed that fire was against Gonzaga [a win in Seattle], and that's why he's such a good player on the road."

Fazekas' frustration was about his fouls and lack of touches. His fifth foul, a reach-in on Creighton's Anthony Tolliver far away from the basket, clearly was a reaction to that frustration.

What Fazekas said later in the locker room, though, was that he has to realize there are players around him who can score, but "it's definitely fun for me when I'm out there scoring points."

That may be true, but Fazekas wouldn't have another game to play for Nevada if it weren't for the Pack's guards -- Ramon Sessions (16 points), Marcelus Kemp (27 points, 7-for-7 at the free-throw line) and Kyle Shiloh (10 points and, as important, showing no signs of a tight hamstring that he got from slipping on a WAC tourney logo last week in Las Cruces, N.M.). Plus, the Wolf Pack got spirited play from Fazekas' backups, JaVale McGee and David Ellis.

"He's a great player and an All-American, but this team is more than just Nick," Kemp said. "He would say that himself."

It was amazing to see the completely businesslike approach in the postgame locker room. There was no whooping. It was if the Wolf Pack had adopted Fazekas' deadpan approach to winning.

"We expected to win. I should say they expected to win and still be here Sunday," Fox said of his team.

Beating Memphis on Sunday is another matter. Fazekas was fine on the boards and defended Tolliver quite well in the post, but he may have to be stronger with the ball and more aggressive for Nevada to upset the Tigers.

Memphis coach John Calipari said the Tigers aren't about to slow down or get sucked into a half-court game.

"The teams that have success in the tournament do what they do best," Calipari said. "I told my team that the teams that struggle are the teams that change their attitude and approach the tournament differently. We're not going to change our mentality. We're going to smash people."

How the Wolf Pack -- and especially Fazekas -- respond to that approach will be known early in the game.

"I wouldn't say we expected to win, but me, Shiloh, Ramon and Marcelus, we've all been here before," Fazekas said. "I've won a first-round game before, so it's nothing new to me. I want to win more."

Don't expect Fazekas to be demonstrative, though. He'll be the same on Sunday.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

ALSO SEE