The Wyoming men’s basketball team hosts Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State at 2 p.m. Saturday in Laramie.
Should be an easy win for UW, but coach Larry Shyatt and the players don’t want to hear anything about that.
“It is off to the next challenge,” true freshman guard Josh Adams said. “This is our most important game because it is the next one. (The Illinois State) win meant a lot because people are always under rating us. We love being the underdog.”
The Cowboys’ RPI shot up to 33 after their 81-67 win at Illinois State on Tuesday. ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz described 9-0 UW as “legitimate.” Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com called UW “frauds” prior to the Illinois State game among the nation’s undefeated teams.
What do you think, folks, is Wyoming a contender or pretender, or do you need to see more before making that decision?
Will Saturday’s game be one where the players get caught up in the hype — both nationally and here in our neck of the woods — where the team is a hot topic of discussion after a 9-0 start?
“Being around the guys on the team, especially the seniors, it is easy not to get caught up in it,” Adams said. “People still don’t think we can do anything, so we have to focus on what’s next and step up our game again.”
Here’s what senior point guard Derrious Gilmore said about the win at Illinois State, where UW overcame a 19-point second-half deficit — its largest since the 1999-2000 season:
“I definitely believe it can help our confidence. Every game we step on the court we need to stay together, stick to game plan, play for each other and give it our all. I’m not sure if it can do much because there’s so much ahead. but it helped us build confidence in one another.”
This stretch for the Cowboys — practices included — is big for true freshman guard Josh Adams and junior guard Nathan Sobey.
Sophomore guard Riley Grabau is out for about a week with pain in his knee. Adams likely starts Saturday. In his first-ever start at Illinois State he had a career-high 15 points.
Sobey only played seven minutes, but both have played well with Grabau out, or playing limited minutes. This is a good time for both Adams and Sobey to improve as UW will need them both once conference play starts next month. The practice time is even more important. UW has practiced only twice over the last 10 or 11 days with its recent schedule. Although finals are next week for the players, UW should get around five solid practice sessions.
Grabau has 24 assists and four turnovers so far this season. That assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the Mountain West and tied for fifth in the nation. Impressive!
Senior forward Leonard Washington leads the MW with 2.1 blocked shots per game, and is in the top eight in the following statistical categories:
Points (15.1) 8th
Rebounding (8.3) 5th
Defensive rebounds (6.3) 5th
Field goal percentage (51.7) 3rd
Minutes (31.5) 5th
Shyatt on if he thought his team had what it took to come back for the win at Illinois State: “I don’t think any coach knows that until you are in the eye of the hurricane. You can think you know your ball club and how they’re going to respond in certain situations, but I think the coach is pretending until you are in that environment.”
Shyatt on if he’s worried about Oklahoma Panhandle State: “I am very worried. I cannot image going into a game at age 60 where I wouldn’t be worried. … We ill need a home crowd to service us and give us some energy.”
I leave you with this question: When choosing to go to a UW game (any sport) what is your determining factor whether you go or not. For those fans who can’t get to games, or rarely because of distance, pretend that isn’t a factor:
B) To watch Wyoming
C) Who Wyoming is playing
For more on Saturday’s game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and go to www.wyosports.net.