Wyoming sophomore guard Justin James, at 6-foot-7, is the Cowboys’ leading scorer this season at 15.3 points per game. All of those points have been off the bench, but James is among the team leaders in minutes at 24.2 per game.
James often is the Cowboys’ point guard, and of all the players on the team, has the ball in his hands more often than not. A by-product of that is turnovers. His 55 are second-most on the team.
The Port St. Lucie, Florida, product is coming off back-to-back 20-point games, including a game-high 26-point effort in the Cowboys’ 83-74 road win at Air Force last Saturday. James also had a career-high seven assists in that game.
The only other time this season James had consecutive 20-point games was back in late November when he had a career-high 28 at California, and 21 at home against Denver. In those games, James had a combined three turnovers. Against Air Force and the previous game against Boise State, he had nine.
“We’ve been harping on it,” said first-year UW coach Allen Edwards on the turnovers by James this season. “The thing with Justin is he’ll continue to get better. Sometimes he tries to rely on talent, and that’s where he gets into trouble. Sometimes it may not be the ultimate respect for guy guarding him.”
UW (15-9 overall, 5-6 Mountain West) hosts Fresno State (14-9, 6-5) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Laramie. James wasn’t much of a factor in the Cowboys’ 85-70 loss at Fresno State on Jan. 4. He picked up two fouls within the first minute of the game, and finished with just seven points — one shy of his season-low — in just 14 minutes, which was a season-low before he fouled out.
Fresno State is one of the more aggressive defensive teams in the MW, and a key matchup in Wednesday’s game could be James against 6-7 senior wing Paul Watson (12.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg) for the Bulldogs. Watson had a game-high 25 points in the first game against UW.
Edwards knows guys with the ball in their hands a lot and who try to make a lot of plays will result in some turnovers. But he also said there have been instances with James and junior forward Hayden Dalton (UW’s second-leading scorer at 12.5 ppg and leader with 63 turnovers), have simply been carless with the ball.
“They’re basically throwing it to them,” Edwards said.
Despite the turnover issues, James has shown signs of the talented player he is now, and can become in Edwards’ mind.
“The last few games Justin has shown what kind of player he is and is capable of of becoming,” Edwards said. “Talent-wise he’s one of the better guys in this league.”
For more UW-Fresno State hoops coverage, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.