My three keys for Wyoming’s game today at Air Force, which starts at noon MT and will be televised on Root Sports.
1. Come together: The news Friday morning rocked everyone who follows UW basketball when the school announced that senior forward Larry Nance Jr. has a mild
case of mononucleosis. Not sure what “mild” means, but he is listed as day-to-day. I will be surprised if he plays, and many remember what happened when Nance hurt his knee last year. But it’s way too early to hit the panic button with this. Yes, it’s not good or ideal, but if Nance misses a game or two, fine — as long as he gets better. A silver lining in all this is UW has a lot of players that has been through this kind of adversity, and it needs to feed off that with guys like senior guards Riley Grabau and Charles Hankerson Jr., senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. and junior guard Josh Adams. The Cowboys need to come together as a team, and has the make-up to do so.
Here is my video preview of today’s game:
2. Defend shooters: Air Force made 16 3-pointers in a 92-87 home loss to Colorado State last month. The Falcons shoot 37.2 percent from 3, and just about every player they put on the floor — from guards to posts — can shoot the 3. UW has to do a good job of guarding at all times. If a couple of guys get hot, the Cowboys are in trouble. UW did a good job of this in Wednesday’s 59-48 win over Colorado State as the Rams were 3 of 25 from behind the arc.
3. Cooke’s time to shine: When senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. first got to UW three years ago, he didn’t see a lot of playing time against Air Force due to its complex
Princeton offense. But Cooke has come a long way since then, and has played some of his best basketball the last two games with back-to-back double-doubles. Cooke’s averaged 13 points, 10.5 rebounds and was 10 of 15 from the free-throw line. Cooke may be the only experienced post player UW has today, so he will need to continue that trend of good play — both offensively and defensively. “I think I’m more ready based on the confidence the coaches and my teammates have in me,” Cooke said.
Here are some other notes and quotes on today’s game:
–UW and Air Force lead the MW in field-goal percentage at 47.6 percent. That also is 26th nationally.
–If the Cowboys win, they will have defeated all five Division I teams in Colorado this season. UW is 5-0 against Colorado, Colorado State, Denver and Northern Colorado. “That’s the first time I heard of it. That would be pretty cool, but its not over yet. We have to be fouced and make sure we go out and get the win,” senior guard Riley Grabau said. UW also beat two Colorado Division II teams this season in Regis and Western State.
–Many UW fans are frustrated with the latest bout of mononucleosis involving Nance and redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon. However, it won’t get any sympathy from Air Force. The total man-missed games for the Falcons this season is 97, including three players who were lost due to injury before the season started.
–Air Force got its leading scorer back this week in senior guard Max Yon, who missed time this season due to injury and for personal reasons. “They’ve added a heck of a piece in their leading scorer and one of their veterans. It’s a big plus for them,” UW coach Larry Shyatt said.
–Today would be a good time for UW senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. to break out of his 0-for-20 shooting slump over the last four games. Hankerson and senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. are best friends, and this is what Cooke said about his teammate and friend: “Junior is dealing with some back soreness, but he’s not down at all. I tell him all the time he’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. He’s worried about getting healthy and helping this team win.”
–Another player who UW needs to get his scoring going is junior guard Josh Adams, who is 6 of 23 from the field over his last three games.
For more on this game and other UW and high school sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.