UW vs. Nevada basketball Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Chris Murray, who covers Nevada men’s basketball for the Reno Gazette-Journal, about Wednesday’s game with Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @MurrayRGJ

It will have been 18 days since the last time Wyoming played Nevada — a 71-68 Nevada win in Reno. Has anything changed a lot with he Wolf Pack since that first game?

Chris Murray

Chris Murray

Well, Nevada still can’t shoot. The team ranked 350th out of 351 teams last year in 3-point shooting against Division-I opponents and sits at 339th in the nation this year. Nevada made 5-of-11 3-pointers against Wyoming in the first matchup, one of its best shooting efforts of the season. But this team struggles to score and its defense and rebounding has slipped since it lost AJ West, who also missed the first game. It’s basically the same Nevada team that is reliant on creating turnovers, scoring in transition and playing with pace. Nevada had a good offensive night in its win over Wyoming earlier this month and will need a repeat of that Wednesday to score the sweep.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings and picks

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings heading into the final week of the regular season, along with predictions on this week’s games.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback/opinions.

1. Boise State (22-7 overall, 12-4 Mountain West): Completed a regular-season sweep of San Diego State with a road win Saturday. The Broncos have won 13 of their last 14 games and will likely be the top seed at the MW Tournament.

2. San Diego State (22-7, 12-4): The Aztecs fall based on their home loss to Boise State. Still one of the best teams in the league, but must find more offense as the postseason approaches.

3. Colorado State (24-5, 11-5): Tied for third place with red-hot Utah State, and must play the Aggies on the road Saturday. Four of five losses this season have come on the road.

4. Utah State (18-10, 11-5): Aside from Boise State, the Aggies may be the best team in the MW right now as they’ve won six straight. This team can defend, has a post presence down low and has multiple guys that can shoot the ball. Watch out for them in the postseason.

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UW-Nevada men’s basketball: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 64-58 win at Nevada Tuesday night at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada.

1. Tale of two halves: Simply put, UW was awful in the first half and awful good in the second. The Cowboys were 6 of 23 from the field in the first half, and even missed all five

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

of its free throws — all by guards. The Cowboys were trying to drive to the basket, but Nevada did a good job of blocking shots and stopping that. UW had open outside shots, but it couldn’t hit them. But in the second half, after the Cowboys hit a few outside shots, they looked like the team that ran the floor in transition against San Jose State last Saturday in Laramie. The Cowboys shot 61.5 percent in the second half (16 of 25) and made 5 of 8 3-pointers. “I credit our assistant coaches for grinding, and I credit our players because to me this was one of the most incredible I’ve ever been part of on the road,” coach Larry Shyatt said.

Here are some of the late second half highlights as UW took the lead with 4:25 to play after a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore guard Jason McManamen, and never gave it back up.

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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:


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UW-Nevada men’s basketball Q&A

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

Chris Murray

Chris Murray

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?

AJ West

AJ West

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.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings and picks

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings for this week, along with predictions on this week’s games.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback/opinions.

1. San Diego State (20-6 overall, 10-3 MW): Back on top after two impressive home wins over Wyoming and Colorado State. The Aztecs also remain in first place in the conference and are the only undefeated team at home.

2. Boise State (18-7, 8-4): A loss at Fresno State last Saturday snapped the Broncos’ eight-game winning streak. Some injuries and suspensions forced it to be down some guys in Fresno. We will see how it bounces back at UNLV this week.

3. Wyoming (20-6, 9-4): Got a much-needed win at home over lowly San Jose State. The Cowboys need to get senior forward Larry Nance Jr. back healthy (mononucleosis) but it won’t be this week. Its lone game this week at Nevada won’t be easy.

4. Colorado State (21-5, 8-5): Still right up near the top, but the Rams will be tested this week with games at Fresno State and home against a suddenly improved Air Force team.

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UW-Nevada men’s basketball: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 63-55 win over Nevada Saturday:

1. Chairmen of the boards: UW outrebounded Nevada 34-24 and 12-9 on the offensive glass. Rebounding is not the Cowboys’ strength, especially not on the offensive glass. But they were good there against a Nevada team that averaged more than 41 rebounds per game, and 15.4 offensive rebounds per contest. Even though senior forwards Larry Nance Jr.(11 points, 10 rebounds) and Derek Cooke Jr. (14 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles, it was more than just rebounding. UW got to most of the 50-50 balls, or hustle plays in this game. Sometimes that resulted in an offensive rebound. Other times in extended a possession. The hustle the Cowboys showed was impressive. UW was credited with five team rebounds — four offensive — and many of those came on hustle plays. The Cowboys also scored a season-high 16 second-chance points.

Here are video highlights from the second half:

 

Riley Grabau

Riley Grabau

2. Grabau getting hot: Senior guard Riley Grabau was 3 of 5 from 3-point range and is 11 of 21 in his last three games. Doubt he can shoot at that pace the rest of the season, but it is good to see him knock down some shots. Junior guard Josh Adams was 2 of 5 from behind the arc and sophomore Jason McManamen was 1 of 2. If senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. can only bust out of his slump. Hankerson was 0 of 5 from the field and 0 of 3 from 3. In his last three games he is 0 of 16 and 0 of 12 from behind the arc. Coach Larry Shyatt isn’t concerned about Hankeson because he’s playing good defense and being unselfish offensively. Hankerson said via his Twitter account after the game: “Great win. It’s all about the team. But I have to be better. I will be better.”

Here is Shyatt after the game:


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UW-Nevada men’s basketball: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s men’s basketball game vs. Nevada today, which tips off at 4 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie:

Larry Nance

Larry Nance

1. Nance vs. West: Two of the better big men in the Mountain West will go against each other today in Wyoming senior Larry Nance Jr. and Nevada junior AJ West. Nance leads UW in scoring (16.4 ppg), rebounding (6.9 rpg) and blocked shots (1.1 bpg), and those figures go up to 19.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.3 bpg in league play. West is one of 19 players in the country that averages a double-double (12.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg). He also averages nearly three blocks per game, and leads the nation in offensive rebounds (6.1 per game). These two have formed a nice rivalry over the last year or so.

Here is my video preview on the game:


2. Second-chance points: West isn’t the only player for Nevada that crashes the offensive glass. Nevada averages more than 15 offensive rebounds per game. UW must do a good job of defensive rebounding and not giving the Wolf Pack second and third chances at baskets.

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UW-Nevada men’s basketball Q&A

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 Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip-off is at 4 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, and the game will be televised on Root Sports.

Follow on Twitter: @MurrayRGJ

Chris Murray

Chris Murray

At 6-13 overall, 2-5 in the Mountain West and losers of five straight, what has been the biggest issues for Nevada’s struggles of late and much of the season?

Offense. This team simply can’t score. Getting to 60 points is a big achievement. The Wolf Pack was ranked last in the nation in 3-point shooting for most of January, but has perked up a little there in recent games. The team struggles with turnovers and has missed a lot of point-blank shots, leaving little margin for error in order to get wins. The defense, a big strength in nonconference action, has slid in a major way in Mountain West play. So, in short, other than rebounding, Nevada doesn’t have a lot of strengths to draw from and usually linger around 35 percent shooting from the floor, which makes it tough to win at any level.

 

There have been some bad losses, but this team also started 2-0 in league play and has shown it can play good basketball. When it plays well, what does it do well?

AJ West

AJ West

Nevada has won six games, but two were against non-Division I teams, two were against D-I cupcakes (Marshall, Air Force) and two were against average — at best — teams (Cal Poly and UNLV). So, the Wolf Pack doesn’t really have any quality wins to this point in the season, although it usually plays within a couple baskets of every team it faces. The team’s biggest strength when playing well is center AJ West, who leads the nation in offensive rebounds and also is a high-level rim protector. When Nevada plays well, it’s getting stops and getting into transition quickly. The Wolf Pack has some good athletes and needs to score in transition because it’s half-court offense is so limited.

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UW-Nevada postgame thoughts

This one will sting awhile for the Wyoming men’s basketball team.

In a game that saw seven ties and 11 lead changes, UW came up on the short end of a 61-58 loss at Nevada Saturday afternoon at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

UW took its last lead at 58-56 with 1:32 to play after a layup by sophomore guard Josh Adams, who looked good in transition several times during the game.

The Cowboys didn’t score again.

Here are some second half highlights, including some late-game possessions for both teams.


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