My three keys for Wyoming’s game against Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
1. Defend the perimeter: This was a big key in the Cowboys’ 76-53 win in Laramie last week as the Aggies were just 6 of 18 from 3-point range. Even then, they hit some key 3s — especially in the first half — to keep them in the game. Utah State will have three or four guys on the floor that can shoot it, so UW must be good defending along the perimeter from start to finish. When the Aggies get rolling from outside, they are hard to beat. Utah State shoots just over 39 percent from 3-point range.
2. Corral Collette: UW also did a good job of defending Utah State redshirt freshman forward David Collette last week. They “blitzed him” more last week, meaning that once he got the ball, UW would send another defender at him to disrupt his timing. I would assume Utah State will adjust to that, but until it does that seems like a good strategy to defend Collette. It also wouldn’t hurt if Collette gets into early foul trouble like he did last week. Whatever UW does, it needs to make sure Collette doesn’t get going.
“That’s easier said than done because they have a lot of actions and keep a lot people busy. The reality is he’s a really good player. The better players play well consistently,” UW coach Larry Shyatt said.
Here is my video preview of the game:
3. Make shots: Sounds simple, but it’s not always the case for UW. It made only 15 baskets in its last game — a 52-49 overtime loss at New Mexico last Saturday. Granted, credit should go to New Mexico. But coach Larry Shyatt said this week the Cowboys missed several open looks at shots early in that game that came back to cost them. The Cowboys won’t make all their shots, but they can’t shoot in the low 30 percent range like they did at New Mexico. The defensive effort has been there the last two games — 53 and 52 points allowed — and that, too, will need to be there. But shots need to drop, and if senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and junior guard Josh Adams can provide steady offense, that will open up things for others.
–“The biggest key is defensive stops. You can’t predict how you’re going to shoot, but if we take care of the ball, get good looks (at shots) and keep them form getting good looks, it will be a Wyoming Cowboys type game where we grind it out and see how it ends.” — Adams.
Here are some other notes and quotes on today’s game.
–The Cowboys try to win just their fourth MW Tournament game since 2006 today. They are 6-6 all-time in the quarterfinals in this tournament, and will play Utah State for the first time in this event. UW’s No. 4 seed is its highest since 2003, and it is 0-1 against No. 5 seeds.
–“I don’t think so. It’s good for preparation for both teams. But at this point of the year because assistant coaches do such a thorough job, I don’t think there’s a lot of surprises.” — Shyatt on if playing Utah State for the second time in a week is an advantage or disadvantage.
–Nance will play in his 120th game for UW, which will put in in 10th place all-time. Senior guard Riley Grabau will play in his 117th game, which is tied for 13th. Adams will start his 89th game, which is 12th. That’s a lot of experience for the Cowboys, and they need to take advantage of that. For more on that, see Thursday’s story in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.
–Grabau needs to make one 3-pointer to tie Reggie Fox (1987-89) for fourth place on UW’s career list, and five 3s will put him past LaDrell Whitehead (1995-97) for third. Grabau has made 164 3-pointers in his career.
–One more steal for Nance will give him 140 for his career, and move him into a tie for fifth place with Josh Davis (1999-2002) on UW’s career list.
–This will be UW’s first game on a Thursday this season. It has played games on every other day of the week.