Wyoming (9-5 overall, 0-1 Mountain West) hosts the preseason favorite to win the conference in New Mexico (10-3, 1-0) at 7 p.m. tonight.
The Lobos have won four of the last five MW regular-season titles, and became the first school in league history to win back-to-back regular season and conference tournament titles. Four starters and six lettermen return from last season’s team.
Despite a new coach in Craig Neal, who was Steve Alford’s top assistant and got the job after Alford took the UCLA job, the Lobos do much of the same things — and they do them well.
It should be noted this game was originally scheduled to be played at 9:05 p.m. as a ESPNU/ESPN3 flex game. When ESPNU didn’t pick up the game for television, UW was able to move the game time back to 7 p.m. ESPN3 is an online only way to watch the game. Here is the link to watch it:
The focus of my game advance in today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Laramie Boomerang and online at wyosports.net was UW’s challenge tonight to defend New Mexico’s big men in senior forward Cameron Bairstow and junior center Alex Kirk.
Here are a couple of notes on those two:
–Bairstow is averaging 20.8 points per game after averaging 9.7 points last season. He is the first person in New Mexico school history to go from averaging in single digits to more than 20 points per game. He also goes to the free-throw line 7.1 times per game, and drew 14 fouls in the Lobos’ win against Colorado State last week.
–Kirk has nine double-doubles this season and 19 in his career. At 7-feet tall, Kirk can also shoot the 3, but is just 8 of 36 from long range this season.
New Mexico averages 40.9 rebounds per game, compared to 31.6 for UW. Rebounding has been an issue for the Cowboys, and was in their 61-58 loss at Nevada last Saturday where they were outrebounded 35-26 and allowed some easy put-backs.
“We knew that going into the season where were were untested (in the post),” coach Larry Shyatt said. “To me, this is a work in progress and this is a group where our front line will be with us the next two years.”
Not sure how much that helps UW tonight. Shyatt added that junior center Matt Sellers, at 6-10, may see some minutes tonight to help inside. Sellers has played just 14 minutes in two games this season coming back from a broken hand.
“I love Cooke and Nance, and Sellers is going to help,” said UW senior wing Jerron Granberry. “I will take them over anybody. The guards have to help rebound, too. I’m not worried about it. We are just going to go out there and grab boards.”
Fans will also get to see the reigning MW Player of the Year in New Mexico senior guard Kendall Williams, who is fifth in the league in scoring (18.8 ppg), first in assists (5.3 apg), second in minutes (35.4 mpg) and sixth in steals (1.6 spg).
Williams is only the second player in MW history to record 1,500 points, 500 assists and 150 steals in his career. The other is BYU’s Jimmer Fredette.