WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Chris Murray, who covers Nevada men’s basketball for the Reno Gazette-Journal, on Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
The game starts at 8 p.m. MT at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Follow on Twitter: @MurrayRGJ
You reported that Nevada went to a four-guard lineup for much of its second-half rally in its overtime win over New Mexico Saturday. Is that something we could see a lot of in the game with Wyoming?
I asked coach David Carter that after the game. He said the move was largely a response to New Mexico using a zone defense and he wanted some players on the court who could make plays off the dribble and didn’t see this as a long-term change. However, if Wyoming goes small without Larry Nance Jr., I could see Nevada moving to the four-guard lineup because it was much more effective than the traditional lineup. Plus, Nevada is without two of its top three frontcourt players in Robyn Missa (knee; out the last five games) and Ronnie Stevens Jr. (leg; probably out for his career). So, it would make a lot of sense to see four guards out there, although Carter has no said as much.
Forward AJ West was plagued with foul trouble in the first half at Wyoming on Jan. 31, but played well in the second half. How big of a factor could he be against Wyoming since the Cowboys won’t have Nance?
West is the key to every Wolf Pack game. He’s the team’s best player and his ability to offensive rebound makes the Nevada offense somewhat competent. He struggled with fouls against Wyoming and struggled to get the ball as the Cowboys fronted him, which frustrated him. He did spark to life in the second half, but needs to play a complete game with Nance out. West said he was surprised at how good Derek Cooke Jr. was in the first game, so expect West to be prepared for a tough battle inside even with Nance out. Nevada’s frontcourt was dominated in the game between these teams last month, so they should be out for some revenge.
Guard Marqueze Coleman had a big game in the win over New Mexico with a career-high 24 points. What worked well for him in that game and how big of a key is it for the Wolf Pack for him to continue to score like he did in that game?
Coleman has been the missing piece for Nevada this year. The Wolf Pack has 10 straight years of great point guard play, from Ramon Sessions and Armon Johnson, who both reached the NBA, to Deonte Burton, one of the top-five players in program history. Coleman was the heir apparent but struggled in the middle portion of the season and lost his starting job (for one game). Since returning to the starting lineup, he’s played better, especially the last two games when he’s been more aggressive going to the basket and getting to the free throw line. He’s not a great shooter but is a good athlete who needs to attack all game, which he’s done more of lately.
How different do you see this game being without Nance in the picture for Wyoming?
Given the fact Wyoming is 2-8 without Nance the last two seasons and 45-13 with him, it’s a huge deal. The Cowboys sill have their share of talent, especially in the backcourt, but Nance was the MW preseason player of the year for a reason. He’s the team’s anchor and Wyoming has clearly been a different team without him. Nevada needs to capitalize on this injury, something it didn’t do earlier this year when Colorado State was without its star frontcourt player J.J. Avila. Despite missing him, the Rams beat the Wolf Pack by 56 points, the largest defeat in MW history. I’m sure Carter has reminded his players of that fact and told them they can’t take anything for granted.
What are your keys to the game and who wins?
I picked Nevada to upset New Mexico on Saturday and it worked and I’m going to do the same in this game. The Wolf Pack is a 2.5-point underdog, but I’ll go with Nevada 60, Wyoming 56. I just think the Nance injury is a lot to overcome, but Wyoming is never an easy team to play against. For Nevada, the keys are the offensive glass, Eric Cooper’s 3-point accuracy and Coleman’s ability to attack the paint. If Nevada gets all of those things moving in the right direction, it should be able to sneak out a win.
Cowboys game day
Game: Wyoming (20-6 overall, 9-4 Mountain West) at Nevada (8-16, 4-8)
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Lawlor Events Center, Reno, Nevada
TV: Mountain West Digital Network (online only)
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie