My three keys for Wyoming’s game with Northern Iowa in the second round of the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Tipoff is at 11:40 a.m. MT Friday from Key Arena in Seattle.
1. Defend the perimeter: Probably sounds like a broken record for the Cowboys, but they face a Northern Iowa team that shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. The Panthers have eight players who have made between 15 and 50 3s this season, and five that shoot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. Guys big and small can shoot the ball for Northern Iowa. It will make some shots, but if the Cowboys allow them to get hot from outside it will be a long game.
2. Continued good play from Adams: Junior guard Josh Adams was the Mountain West Tournament MVP by averaging 18.7 points and shooting 49 percent from the field over three games last week in Las Vegas. Adams needs to have a similar-type game against Northern Iowa. Attacking the basket when the opportunities are there, as well as knocking down some perimeter shots are musts. Adams doesn’t need to put the game on his shoulders, and it will be important for others to be involved. But if Adams and senior forward Larry Nance Jr. can score, things open up for others.
Here is my video preview for today’s game:
3. Play like you belong here: This is the biggest stage for UW and it accomplished a lot to get here. But this isn’t a time to be satisfied. It’s a time to show what the Cowboys are all about and can do on both ends of the floor. Sure, emotions will play a factor, especially early. You’d have to be a robot not to have some nerves or jitters. But UW needs to control those emotions, or use them to its advantage, and not let it cloud its focus. Enjoy the moment, but also take advantage of it.
The team appeared loose and in good spirits during its brief open practice to the public and media Thursday at Key Arena. Granted, the team held a practice at Seattle-Pacific University prior to this to get in its most important work done. But here are some highlights from the open practice at Key Arena:
Here are some other notes and quotes on the game:
–Senior guard Riley Grabau’s next made 3-pointer will put him in second place by himself in school history and pass Jay Straight (2002-05). Grabau has 169 made 3-pointers in his career. UW’s all-time leader is former guard Brandon Ewing (2006-09) with 193. Grabau also ranks third at UW in 3-pointers attempted with 461, and fifth in career 3-point shooting percentage at 36.7.
–“For five seniors, we may only have one game left in our college careers. You don’t have to tell us the importance of this game.” — UW senior forward Larry Nance Jr.
–The No. 5 seed for Northern Iowa is its highest in seven trips to the NCAA Tournament. When Panthers coach Ben Jacobson was asked if it is different now that his team is not considered an underdog — at least in the game with UW — he said: “From my standpoint, I’ve enjoyed that part of it with the team. I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve handled all the things that have come their way. They’ve had to work at it, and in particular, the five seniors have had to make some positive changes and do some things a little different going back to the last eight to 10 months. To watch that growth, I’m excited with the fact we are a No. 5 seed and a chance to light it up against a really good Wyoming team.”
–This is UW’s 27th postseason appearance in its 110-year history of the program. Its postseason record is 18-31. This is the Cowboys’ 15th NCAA Tournament, and their record heading in is 9-19. UW has made it to four consecutive postseason tournaments (the previous three years was the CBI),which has never happened in school history.
–“Upsets happen every year. Our motto is ‘why not us.’ We’re capable of winning multiple games in this tournament and that’s what we’re shooting for.” — UW junior guard Josh Adams.
–“We get to play another game of basketball. It’s just an honor to be in this big dance. It’s something you talk about when you are 5 or 6, and even in high school, that you want to be playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’ll see what happens in the tournament.” — Grabau.
For more coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.