My three keys for Wyoming men’s basketball in tonight’s Border War versus Colorado State. Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
1. Offense vs. Defense: Colorado State (19-3 overall, 6-3 MW) leads the league in scoring at 74 points per game. UW is fourth in the nation in scoring defense (53.9 ppg). The Cowboys got the better end in the first game, a 60-54 victory at Moby Arena on Jan. 7
as they held the Rams to 34 percent shooting and 2 of 14 from 3-point range. UW can’t get into a track meet in this game, yet will need to take advantage of some fast-break points when it can.
“You have to be alert and on edge every single possession,” UW coach Larry Shyatt said. “What we have to do better (tonight) is during those first eight to 10 seconds on defense. When they rebound that ball they fly it up the floor. They have enough outstanding offensive players they can insult you in transition.”
2. Play smart in the post: UW is undermanned inside as redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and Derek Cooke Jr. will have to shoulder the load inside, which they so for the most part anyway. However, Herndon averaged nearly 18 minutes per game in conference play so Nance and Cooke will have to play smart and avoid foul trouble, and Shyatt and staff will have a challenge in terms of managing those minutes. The Cowboys could go with a small lineup at times with only one post, but those times may be few and far between as Colorado State has four bigs who see time and can run the floor.
3. Guards getting more involved: No matter who UW plays, it needs good guard play in terms of scoring, assists and ball security. But down a man in the post, the Cowboys’ guards will need to also be more involved in rebounding. In the first game against Colorado
State, junior guard Josh Adams had six rebounds, which tied for a team-high. UW doen’t need just one person to step up in this area, it needs all hand on deck, so to speak. It also will help, however, if the guards can knock down some outside shots. Senior guard Riley Grabau is 11 of 21 from 3-point range in his last three games. That’s encouraging. But senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. is 0 of 16 from the field and 0 of 12 from 3 in his last three games. UW is 8-1 this season when he makes two or more 3s. This would be a good game for him to bust out of his shooting slump.
Here is my video preview of today’s game:
A few other notes and quotes:
— “You want to say this is just another game, but there is a little more buzz going on about this one. For us five seniors, this is last time playing them at home, and hopefully in front of
a fantastic crowd. There’s a lot of factors that go into it that make the game exciting. It should make for a pretty fun game.” — Nance on playing his final home game against Colorado State.
–A side note to that, UW is seeking its first regular-season sweep of Colorado State since the 2008-09 season.
–Both teams have been good in close games this season. UW is 9-2 in games decided by single digits, compared to 9-11 last season. Colorado State is 5-0 in games decided by one possession.
–Colorado State senior forward J.J. Avila is the only MW player to be ranked in the top 10 in scoring (15.5 ppg), rebounds (7.6 rpg), field-goal percentage (54.9), assists (3.1 apg)
and steals (2.0 spg). Avila scored a game-high 23 points against UW in the last game. He also had seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and four turnovers. In his career against UW, Avila has averaged 18.3 points per game.
— “He’s definitely earned that opportunity, but the game is so spontanious. So much happens in terms of pace of games, foul trouble, fatigue, who’s playing well and who’s not. All those factors come into play when talking sixth through 10th man on most teams.” — Shyatt when asked if true freshman guard Alexander Aka Gorski has earned more playing time recently.
— “It’s got to be the same approach every single game. We can’t take any team lightly and can’t make mistakes against good teams in our league, and they’re all good.” — UW junior guard Josh Adams
— UW has shot 88 percent from the free-throw line (52 of 59) in its last three home games. Senior guard Riley Grabau has moved back into first place in the nation in free-throw percentage at 94.1 percent.
For more coverage from this game, along with UW football recruiting news since today is signing day, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.