UW at Nevada men’s hoops: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

Here are my three keys for the Wyoming men’s basketball team for its game tonight at Nevada. Tip time is 8 p.m. MT from the Lawlor Events Center, and the game will be televised online only by the Mountain West Digital Network.

1. Crash the boards: Nevada can really rebound, especially on the offensive glass. UW must not allow the Wolf Pack to get second and third chances at shots. That won’t be

AJ West

AJ West

easy without senior forward Larry Nance Jr. (mono), and the fact Nevada has one of the best rebounders and big men in the Mountain West in junior AJ West — one of 18 players in the nation to average a double-double (12.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg). The Cowboys won the rebounding battle with Nevada in their 63-55 win Jan. 31 in Laramie as they held a 34-24 edge and 12-9 on the offensive glass. If they can do that again, or even stay even, that would be a huge advantage for the Pokes. Nevada enters the game fifth in the nation with 15.3 offensive rebounds per game.

“West is one of the better players in the conference. Controlling and limiting him and his opportunities, along with a lot of their other guys are going to be critical in the game,” UW senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. said.

Here is my preview video on the game:

2. Good guard play: UW’s guards played well in its 77-60 home win over San Jose State. But, that was 2-22 San Jose State. Nevada may be 8-16 but it is a much better team with bigger and more athletic guards. The Cowboys want to push the tempo more, which is fine as long as the turnovers don’t come with it. They had only seven against San Jose State. UW’s guards must make good decisions with the ball, and also do a good job defending Nevada’s guards, who will probably look to do the same thing against them.

Derek Cooke Jr.

Derek Cooke Jr.

3. Derek Cooke Jr.: UW’s senior forward had a double-double against Nevada last month, and his play surprised many of the Wolf Pack’s players and coaches. Cooke needs a similar effort tonight. He must do a good job against West, especially fronting him. He also must stay out of foul trouble. It helps that the Cowboys have redshirt freshman Alan Herndon back, and he too must play well. But it starts with Cooke.

A few other notes and quotes on tonight’s game:

— “I’m not overly concerned with that. He communicates with our medical staff on a daily basis and he seems to be improving each day. He gave us really good moments, especially in the second half (against San Jose State) and hopefully he’ll be able to do that Tuesday.” — UW coach Larry Shyatt on the play of Herndon and his recovery from mono.

— Just like when UW and Nevada played in Laramie on Jan. 31 — a 63-55 Cowboys win — both teams are similar in a lot of ways. UW averages 61.9 points per game, Nevada averages 62. The Cowboys shoot 40.2 percent per game, Nevada 40.1. UW shoots 71.1 percent from the free-throw line; Nevada 69.9. UW averages 5.9 steals per game; Nevada 5.2.
— “They have big, strong physical guards and a big, strong, physical front line. We’ve got to be prepared for that. The one thing we’ll have to do is certainly counter their strength. Their physicality, their strength at the guard spots, their hard-slashing drives. We’ve got to match that and we’ve got to overcome that piece.” — Shyatt on Nevada.
— UW is 9-2 this season in games decided by single digits, but its last four games have been by double figures. The last time the Cowboys played a game decided by single digits was its game with Nevada in Laramie.
— “It’s too early to tell right now, but It’s always good when you get a win and do the things you need to do to win.” — UW senior guard Riley Grabau on if he thinks UW’s new style of play on offense right now is fun.
— Nevada is offering half-priced beer at tonight’s game for $4. Makes me think of UW’s famous Beer Song. A lot of UW fans would love to be here tonight just for the price of beer.
— UW needs to be concerned about several of Nevada’s guards, but since freshman Eric Cooper Jr. was inserted into the starting lineup he’s averaged 14 points per game — a span of seven games.
— Cowboys senior guard Riley Grabau will move up on a couple of UW’s career lists tonight. He will start his 89th game, which puts him 11th in school history by himself. His next 3-point attempt will give him 416, which will be fourth all-time. Junior guard Josh Adams will start his 85th game, which is 14th-most in school history.
For more on the game, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.