My three keys for Wyoming men’s basketball today against San Jose State, which starts at 4 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
1. Get a win: Plain and simple, isn’t it? Yes, the team has struggled big-time without senior forward Larry Nance Jr. (mononucleosis). But it isn’t like this team has not dealt
with such adversity. It did last season when Nance tore the ACL in his right knee, and two years ago when senior guard Luke Martinez was suspended prior to the start of conference play. One player doesn’t need to make up for Nance’s absence (he is listed as day-to-day but likely won’t play today), but everyone has to do their part. UW didn’t win 19 games prior to this by not playing well as a team. Coach Larry Shyatt always talks about being “connected” as a team. The Cowboys haven’t the last two games, but needs to more than ever now. If they do that, they can and will win today.
Here is my video preview of today’s game:
2. Perimeter defense: Air Force and San Diego State both shot 50 percent from 3-point range over the last two games. San Jose State will only have eight guys who can play, and will rely heavily on perimeter shooting. The Cowboys can’t ignore playing good interior defense, but they must do a good job of defending along the perimeter so San Jose State does not gain any confidence and can stay in the game — or win it — from the outside.
3. Take care of the ball: The Cowboys’ turnover margin the last two games has been a minus-3.5. It’s hard enough when a team is at full strength to overcome that, but even harder if the team is down its best player. UW must take better care of the basketball from start to finish.
A few other notes and quotes on today’s game:
–If UW wins it will give it 16 home wins for the season. That will tie the most in A-A history, matching the 2011-12 and 1985-86 teams that were 16-3.
–Just how bad have the last two games been for the Cowboys? They’ve averaged 45.5 points per game, and allowed 70 points per contest. They’ve shot 35 percent from the field and 19 percent from 3-point range. Nance is a candidate for Player of the Year in the Mountain West, but one can make a strong argument that he’s the league’s most valuable player.
–Senior guard Riley Grabau will start his 88th game for UW today, which puts him in a three-way tie for 11th in school history.
–San Jose State sophomore guard Rashad Muhammad has scored in double figures in 12 of the last 13 games, and averaged 14.7 points per contest over that span. Muhammad was a UW target, made a visit to Laramie and his college choice came down between UW and San Jose State.
–“We’re shooting the ball extremely poor right now, and Air Force and San Diego State both shot the ball extremely well. Sometimes the shots don’t fall for you, but we also didn’t play defense like we’re capable of. If we want to get back on track, we have to get back to playing defense like we know we can play. Our shots are going o fall eventually.” — UW junior guard Josh Adams.
–“At first I didn’t know how long mono can put a person down for. I could have missed up to two months, which would have been the rest of the season. I didn’t know how to react at first. I just focused on getting better and not thinking about how long I could be out.” — UW redshirt freshman Alan Herndon on his fight with mononucleosis.
–“After the San Diego State game, no one is sadder than me about what’s happened. Unlike a lot of teams that have recently suspended players for whatever they want to term it, this team’s done nothing wrong. Eight days ago we had one of the better wins in our four years here (Colorado State) and then very quickly there was a change.
“I feel bad for our loyal fans, but worse for guys like Al, Larry and their teammates. These kids were on the cusp. We can still be on that cusp, but we have to make some improvements with the roster we have currently.” — UW coach Larry Shyatt
For more on this game, other UW sports and high school sports, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.