UW-Southern men’s basketball postgame thoughts

Two things stood out to me in Wyoming’s 57-39 victory over Southern Saturday in Laramie: the play of senior walk-on point guard Jack Bentz, along with the energy and play of senior forward Derek Cooke Jr.

The Cowboys (10-2) were without senior starting point guard Riley Grabau (hamstring) and redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon (back and chest). UW got off to somewhat of a slow start with six turnovers over the first nine minutes.

Derek Cooke Jr.

Derek Cooke Jr.

But when Bentz came in, there were no more turnovers and UW went on a 16-6 run to end the half. More on Bentz in my game story in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net.

Cooke finished with 14 points, a season-high eight rebounds and tied career-highs with three assists and three steals. In the second half he pulled down a rebound and dribbled coast-to-coast for a dunk that had the sparse crowd at the A-A excited.

Cooke joked that he’s a point-forward, but junior guard Josh Adams quicky said he’s not joking but that Cooke — more often than not — makes the right decision and gets the ball to a guard after a rebound.

But Bentz chimed in with: “He’s taking our point guard spot.”

Here is Cooke, Adams and Bentz after the game:

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Bowl season starts Saturday with four MW teams in action

A record seven Mountain West football teams made it to bowl games. The old record was six in 2013.

Four of those teams will play their bowl games Saturday, the first day of the bowl season. Here’s who I think will win and why. As the other bowl games with MW teams approach, I will pick those as well. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

New Orleans Bowl — Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana (8-4), 9 a.m. MT (ESPN)

This is basically a road game for Nevada as it plays the in-state school that is playing in this game for the fourth consecutive year. The Ragin’ Cajuns won the previous three.

The two teams are evenly matched. Nevada averages 31.3 points per game; Louisiana (8-4) averages 30.6. Nevada allows 28.2 points per game; Louisiana 27.9. Both teams also have dual-threat quarterbacks: Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and Louisiana’s Terrance Broadway.

Nevada is good enough to win this game, but I am sticking with Ragin’ Cajuns as it will have the definite home-field advantage. Plus, Nevada will kickoff this game at 8 a.m. PT on their own time clocks. It may take the Wold Pack a while to wake up.. Louisiana 34, Nevada 28.

New Mexico Bowl — Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5), 12:20 p.m. MT (ESPN)

UTEP averages 212.7 rushing yards per game, and Utah State allows only 129.3 rushing yards per contest. Utah State also is a more well-rounded team offensively and defensively.

UTEP has allowed 46 touchdowns this season, compared to 33 for Utah State. The Aggies may take a little time to get going on offense, but their defense will carry them to an easy victory. Utah State 38, UTEP 20.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Dec. 18.

A lot of talk on UW men’s basketball, with a little bit of football and the college bowl season mixed in.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

Shyatt talks free throws

My column today in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Laramie Boomerang and wyosports.net stated that one area the Wyoming men’s basketball team needs to improve offensively is free throws.

Here’s the link to that column

http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/gagliardi-column-for-cowboys-basketball-perimeter-shooting-getting-to-free/article_4524b332-866c-11e4-8c28-2b6783afa578.html

Not the percentage it makes. The Cowboys are shooting 73.3 percent, which is second in the Mountain West from statistics entering this week. They have made 140 free throws, which is sixth in the 11-team MW, and its 12.7 free throws made per game is 8th. UW has attempted 191 free throws, which is seventh in the league.

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Coppens chooses to walk-on as kicker for Cowboys

Jon Coppens’ interest in playing football for Craig Bohl goes back three years ago when he was in high school in Minnesota and Bohl was the coach at North Dakota State.

Both Coppens and Bohl are in different places now, but figure to come together in the fall.

Jon Coppens

Jon Coppens

Coppens, a 6-1, 185-pound kicker from Nolan Catholic High in Fort Worth, Texas, committed to Wyoming Tuesday night. Coppens will be a preferred walk-on, but said Wednesday during a phone interview that he will receive a significant academic scholarship from UW as he pursues a degree in petroleum engineering.

“Not only is Wyoming an affordable school, but the majority, if not all of (my schooling), will be paid for academically for me,” Coppens said.

Coppens also said he liked the athletic facilities at UW, and “feels confident they’re going to do special things (in football) in the future.”

As a senior this season, Coppens made 8 of 10 field goals, with a long of 45 yards, and made all 25 of his extra-point attempts. He also handled kickoffs and did some punting.

“I would say I’m equally good in all three areas, and can contribute at the Division I level in all three areas,” Coppens said.

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UW-Montana State men’s basketball postgame thoughts

The first 30 to 32 minutes were not too impressive for Wyoming, at least defensively.

But the final eight minutes was good enough for the Cowboys to beat Montana State 70-61 Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 4,567 at the Arena-Auditorium.

UW shot the ball well throughout the game, and finished at 56.8 percent. It shot 63.6 percent in the first half, but Montana State made 10 of its first 16 shots and was 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half.

The game was tied at 37 at halftime, the most points UW allowed in the first half this season. Montana State held a slim lead through the first 10 to 12 minutes of the second half. But a 3-pointer by senior guard Riley Grabau, on a nice assist by senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. gave UW a 52-49 lead with 7:42 to play. Montana State tied the game at 53 with just over six minutes left to play, but UW allowed the Bobcats only one basket over the final six minutes of the contest.

UW outscored Montana State 26-9 at the free-throw line, and attempted 20 more free throws than the Bobcats.

Here is coach Larry Shyatt after the game:

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Hankerson Jr. shows solid improvement for Cowboys this season

In 27 games last season, Wyoming guard Charles Hankerson Jr. averaged 6.1 points per game. He made 14 of 35 of his 3-point shots, and had 35 assists compared to 30 turnovers.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Not a bad season for Hankerson, who was a redshirt junior in 2013-14 — his first season of playing for the Cowboys after transferring from Alabama.

After 10 games this season, Hankerson averages 8.8 points per game, which is third-best on the team. He’s nearly tripled his rebounding production at 3.8 per contest after averaging 1.3 last season.

Hankerson is second on the team with 32 assists, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly at 2-to-1.

He also leads the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 48.6 percent (18 of 37). He’s already made two more 3s than all of last season. When I told him he’s made more 3s this season than all of last season, Hankerson sounded surprised.

“I just tried to work hard in the off-season,” Hankerson said. “I knew how much talent and potential this team has. I just wanted to work on improving everything about my game.”

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Dec. 11.

Lots of UW basketball talk, along with a little bit of football.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and check back to wyosports.net.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

Nance Jr. feeling good despite a lot of games to start the season

If there’s any doubt Wyoming senior forward Larry Nance Jr. is recovered from ACL surgery back in March, the Cowboys’ large number of games to start the season should prove that he’s fine.

UW will play its 10th game over a 24-day period when it plays at California at 9 p.m. MT Wednesday. Nance has started every game, and leads the team in scoring (12.7 ppg), rebounding (5.4 rpg) and blocked shots (1.1 bpg).

Larry Nance

Larry Nance

“I’m doing well, but it’s been a little taxing combing back and playing this many games in a pretty short amount of time,” Nance said. “Let’s just say this: I’ve been in the training room quite a bit. I feel good and looking forward to this next one.”

Nance averaged 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocked shots and 1.4 steals per game last season before his injury, which earned him First Team All-Mountain West honors and a spot on the league’s All-Defensive Team.

Nance’s scoring average has dipped in the last couple of games. He was held to four points on 1 of 4 shooting in UW’s 66-53 loss at SMU last Friday, and he played only 16 minutes and had six points in a 70-35 home win over Division II Regis last Sunday.

SMU did a good job of taking Nance away last Friday, and perhaps UW should have done a better job of getting him the ball, or at least finding ways of getting him the ball. It will be interesting to see how Nance does against California, who has a big front court.

UW was outrebounded 35-16 at SMU, and California has outrebounded teams by about six this season, including nearly 41 rebounds per contest. UW averages about 30 rebounds per game, with 25.4 of those coming on the defensive end, which leads the Mountain West.

“We got crushed pretty good on glass at SMU. That’s something we’ve always had to work on and a hurdle we’ve always had to get over. This game will be no different than the others,” Nance said.

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UW-Regis men’s basketball postgame thoughts

It was what many expected from the Wyoming men’s basketball team coming off its first loss of the season Friday at SMU.

The Cowboys hosted Division II Regis and easily won 70-35 Sunday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

UW (8-1) held Regis (2-4) to 28.6 percent shooting, and 21.6 percent from the 7:11 mark of the first half. The Cowboys wanted the starters to get a big lead so the bench guys could log some minutes, especially since the team didn’t return from SMU until mid-afternoon Saturday.

None of UW’s starters played more than 19 minutes, but they combined to go 11 of 15 from the field.

Senior center Matt Sellers sparked a 19-5 first-half run with 12 points. Sellers scored all of his points in the game during that run as UW led 38-17 at halftime. Sellers played only nine minutes.

Redshirt freshman post Alan Herndon was impressive with seven points and career-highs with seven rebounds and two blocked shots. He had a one-handed follow up dunk in the second half that was impressive.

Here is Herndon, Sellers and true freshman center Jonathan Barnes — who had a career-high eight points and scored with a short jumper and inside — after the game:

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