My three keys for Wyoming’s men’s basketball game vs. Nevada today, which tips off at 4 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie:
1. Nance vs. West: Two of the better big men in the Mountain West will go against each other today in Wyoming senior Larry Nance Jr. and Nevada junior AJ West. Nance leads UW in scoring (16.4 ppg), rebounding (6.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.1 bpg), and those figures go up to 19.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.3 bpg in league play. West is one of 19 players in the country that averages a double-double (12.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg). He also averages nearly three blocks per game, and leads the nation in offensive rebounds (6.1 per game). These two have formed a nice rivalry over the last year or so.
Here is my video preview on the game:
2. Second-chance points: West isn’t the only player for Nevada that crashes the offensive glass. Nevada averages more than 15 offensive rebounds per game. UW must do a good job of defensive rebounding and not giving the Wolf Pack second and third chances at baskets.
3. Better decision making: UW’s shot and pass selection wasn’t good in its 56-44 loss at Utah State Tuesday. Utah State had a lot to do with that, and you can bet Nevada will pack the lane to try and limit Nance’s touches. The Cowboys must do a better job of adjusting to this. Yes, UW will need to make some outside shots, but it also will need to do a better job of finding open guys when Nance is double or triple-teamed, and also do a better job of cutting to the basket and making better passes. Riley Grabau and Josh Adams — UW’s two best guards — had three assists and 10 turnovers at Utah State. Those figures need to be reversed for UW to have a chance today.
“I know I forced a lot of stuff in that game and I didn’t play my best. A lot of team aspects didn’t go well, but you he to move on tot he next one,” said Adams, who had two points and six turnovers at Utah State.
Here are a few notes and quotes for you to chew on:
–UW senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. is 0 of 11 from the field in the last two games, and 0 of 9 from 3-point range. The Cowboys are 8-1 this season when Hankerson has at least two 3s. “I’m very confident in my abilities, but I’m also very upset I haven’t been able to contribute more to the team. I’m diligently working so that (today) I will be back to my normal self, and even better,” Hankerson said.
–Don’t expect an offensive shootout between these two teams. In Laramie last season, UW won 64-62 in overtime on a last-second hook shot by Nance. Nevada edged UW 61-58 in Reno. Both teams are similar in terms of field-goal percentage defense. UW allows 40 percent, Nevada 39.9.
–We all know UW isn’t a fast-paced, fast-break team, but coach Larry Shyatt had an interesting comment this week about the efficiency of UW’s transtion’s offense: “We’re scoring transition baskets 53 percent of the time. That should be at 75-plus percent. Every time we get an attack shot in transition, and we’re getting more than people think, we’re not converting them. Even getting fouled is converting. We’ve been throwing up shots, or have been off balance or making poor decisions.”
–Despite UW’s shooting struggles at Utah State (36 percent), it leads the MW in field-goal percentage offense at 48.4 percent.
–UW will try to win its 370th game at the A-A today. If it does, it will be its 14th home win this season, which will tie for the second-most in school history with the 20013-14 team. The most home wins in a season is 16, which happened in 2011-12 and 1985-86.
–Grabau needs two made 3-pointers to tie Fennis Dembo (1985-88) for fifth place on UW’s career list. Grabau currently has 141 and has made 8 of 16 over his last two games.
–As for the dunk count for UW, senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. continues to lead with 43. Nance is second with 37.
For more on the game and other UW and high school sports coverage, see today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.