M’Baye making splash at Oklahoma

Former Wyoming assistant basketball coach Fred Langley, who is doing some analyst work for the mtn., sent me a link about former UW player Amath M’Baye and how he’s doing at Oklahoma. M’Baye will sit out this season. Got to admit, wish he would have stayed at UW.

Thoughts?

http://oudaily.com/news/2011/oct/27/transfer-woes-mens-basketball-junior-mbaye-get-use/

Shyatt presser quick thoughts

Kind of thought it was odd to hold a press conference for a new basketball coach in the suites in the football stadium, but there was a huge crowd for Larry Shyatt’s introductory news conference Wednesday in the Wildcatter Suites atop War Memorial Stadium. In fact, you could say it was standing room only.

As Shyatt and his wife, Pam, were introduced by athletics director Tom Burman, the UW band played “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” and the Shyatts entered with a standing ovation. They also left the same way.

Thought it was touching that early in his talk, Shyatt got a little emotional about coming back to Wyoming. Say what you want about the guy and the fact he left once for another job and a lawsuit came up over his buyout, but Shyatt seems genuilly happy and humbled to be back. Shyatt isn’t a phoney, and he wouldn’t pretend to get emotional if that’s not how he really felt.

Shyatt told me “a couple of players” will leave, but wouldn’t say who. Not counting those players, UW currently has two scholarships to give and looks like it will have four or five. Sophomore forward Brian Gibson won’t return and forward Djibril Thiam was a senior.

Most of the current players were there, but three were not, most notably juniors-to-be Desmar Jackson and Amath M’Baye. For more on that, see my column/analysis in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Senior forward Afam Muojeke said he’s excited about the hire. He also told me he should be cleared to start running on his surgically repaired knee in a week or so. Good news on both fronts.

Senior forward Leonard Washington, the USC transfer who sat out last season, said he’s coming back. He doesn’t have a lot of options to go anywhere, but he vaults to the top in terms of UW’s best player — especially if Jackson and/or M’Baye don’t return.

UW sophomore guard Joe Hudson on the Shyatt hiring: “I think it’s going to be a good fit with him. He sounds like a good guy and a good coach.”

Assistant coach Jeremy Shyatt, Larry’s oldest son, on the current players: “They are the most coachable group with the best attitudes I have ever been around. Everything is going to be new, and our jobs have been made a lot easier because they have great attitudes.”

Associated head coach Scott Duncan on coming back to  UW with Larry Shyatt: “Not often in life do you get to do a journey and a challenge with yoru best friend and his family. Larry and I have been best friends for 26, 27 years and coached a bunch of different schools together. We are at a point in our careers where we looked at each other and said ‘lets do this. We had a lot of fun the last time we were here.’ ”

Duncan on the pressure to have instant success this coming season like he and Shyatt did in 1996-97: “We’re not going to be very patient. We’re want to get this thing turned as quickly as possible, but do it the right way so we can sustain it so it can be at that level for years to come. The first two years are going to be important. We’re going to have to retool the roster and get lucky with some players and take some hard work.”

Shyatt on what he told his players: “Nothing what you’ve done up to this point matters to coach Shyatt. Everything you do from now on, from your academics, to your passion, to your value system and and lastly your basketball abilities. I like the group. I like their openess.”

Shyatt on the current roster: “We need some pieces. “It’s not a mastepiece yet. It’s baby steps. Lets jsut make sure those steps are forwards an not backwards.”

Pokes confident heading into play-in game

The Wyoming men’s basketball team is at least saying the right things heading into today’s play-in game with TCU here at the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

“The feeling that’s going on is positive. We think we can win. We’re going in with the mindset to win,” sophomore guard Desmar Jackson said.

This will be the Cowboys’ third play-in game in the last four years, and they’ve lost their previous two including a humbling 59-40 loss to Air Force last year.

“I think there are some pretty sour memories of the play-in game last year,” sophomore forward Amath M’Baye said. “I think everybody here is ready for this game and I think we will be better prepared for this game and this team will have a different mentality.”

See Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on this game, and on how the Cowgirls hope to end their MWC Tournament woes this year.

Also, live blog links are above this story for today’s UW men’s and women’s games. Hope you will join me.

No Cowboys on MWC all-conference teams

It can’t come as a big surprise that no Wyoming men’s basketball players made the first, second or third All-Mountain West Conference teams that were released Monday. You don’t get a lot a all-conference players when you’re 10-20 and 3-13 in league play.

But I thought sophomore guard Desmar Jackson would make the third team. He was a third team pick last season and was the league’s Freshman of the Year where he averaged 11.8 points per game and and 44 steals. As a sophomore Jackson was fifth in the league in scoring (14.7 ppg) and was second with 61 steals. He also was 12th in the MWC in rebounding (4.9 rpg).

Jackson and sophomore forward Amath M’Baye both earned honorable mention All-MWC honors. M’Baye played like an all-conference player in the second half of the conference season as he averaged 16.7 points per game over the last seven contests. He scored 10 points or more 20 times, but M’Baye didn’t do enough early in the season, at least in the eyes of the voters (which consisted of coaches and select media) to get into the first three teams.

I was one of those media members that voted. I had Jackson on the third team. TCU, which is 10-21 and 1-15 in the MWC got point guard Hank Thorns on the third team. He leads the MWC in assists at seven per game.

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Couldn’t be happier for UW women’s players Hillary Carlson and Aubrey Vandiver. Both were first team All-MWC picks, and Vandiver was the Player of the Year.

Two great players that need to play great in the tournament.

Congrats ladies!

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A couple of quotes from the final MWC coaches’ teleconference Monday:

“Players pretty much understand what BYU is and they come here because of that.” — Dave Rose on if he thinks BYU’s recruiting will be hurt or made harder with the dismissal of sophomore post Brandon Davies last week.

“I have no idea.” — UNLV’s Lon Kruger on if playing the MWC Tournament on the Rebles’ home floor at the Thomas & Mack Center will help his team. Here’s a clue coach, yes it will!!

“For the first time we know whether we win or not we’ll be in the (NCAA) Tournament.” — San Diego State’s 12th-year coach Steve Fisher on if his team is playing for seeding this week for the NCAA Tournament.

“You have to fight to keep your season alive, or it comes to an end.” — TCU’s Jim Christian

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An early prediction on who wins this tournament: UNLV beats New Mexico in the finals. UNLV has won five straight and nine of its last 11, and will upend San Diego State in the semis. New Mexico will beat BYU in the semis (after a hard-fought win over Colorado State in the quarterfinals Thursday) for its fifth straight win over the Cougars and third this season. The Cougars have no answer for New Mexico’s size.

If New Mexico beats UNLV then the MWC gets four teams in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. But UNLV will use the momentum of a home crowd and wins. It will be the Rebels, Cougars and Aztecs in the NCAAs. New Mexico and CSU go to the NIT. Air Force goes to the CBI.

Would love to hear your predictions.

Also the reminders above this story for the live blogs for all UW games, with two on Wednesday. Join me at about 2:45 p.m. for the men and at about 7:45 or so for the women. Links are on the main page of the blog.

Langley doesn’t make excuses

Wyoming interim men’s basketball coach Fred Langley didn’t pull any punches after the Cowboys lost 85-58 to No. 9 San Diego State Tuesday night in the final home game of the season.

At the final media timeout of the first half UW trailed 28-20 with 3:36 to play. The Cowboys trailed 37-20 at halftime, and they made only three field goals over the final 17 minutes of the half.

“We faded, along with our intensity,” Langley said. “I was really disappointed in our effort. As coaches we didn’t push the right buttons tonight. The players didn’t respond to their teammates.”

Langley was asked if there is an illness going around the team. A couple of players on Twitter hinted at that earlier in the day.

“I told them (after the game) you let yourself down if you can’t perform your best,” he said. “You’ve got to get to the doctor and you’ve got to do the things you need to do. You let your teammates down and a you let the fans down. There is no excuses. You’re going to sniffle and you’re going to tough it out.”

Langley said the offense dictated the defense, which is something he doesn’t want to see happen. UW made only 2 of 16 3s and couldn’t do anything inside agaisnt SDSU’s big and athletic frontcourt. SDSU was outscored 52-32 in the paint.

The 27-point win was the most by SDSU in a MWC road game in school history.

Langley went with a bigger lineup by not starting junior point guard JayDee Luster. He went with junior center Adam Waddell, sophomore forward Amath M’Baye and senior forward Djibril Thiam all between 6-9 and 6-10. It worked for about three-quarters of the first half, but UW was still outrebounded 43-26.

“It’s not an excuse to put a product like that on the floor for the fans,” Langely added. “It was hard to be a Cowboy player tonight. It was hard to be a Cowboy fan tonight. It was hard to be a Cowboy coach tonight. It was just a tough night. I can’t put my finger on it, but we’ve got to fix it.”

In his last home game Thiam had 13 points and two rebounds.

UW plays at No. 3 BYU Saturday. The Cowboys have lost 21 straight road games going back to more than two years. However, BYU suffered a blow today when sophomore forward Brandon Davies was dismissed from the team for a violation of the school’s honor code.

“Wow. He’s a big-time player,” SDSU senior forward Malcolm Thomas said. “Without him they’re still a good team and can still make a run. I don’t know what to say to that. I didn’t know that.”

Added Langley, who heard about Davies before the game: “I’m sure they’ll miss him, but they have a lot of depth as well.”

UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Good win for Wyoming, even though the 63-61 victory over Air Force Wednesday night in Laramie shouldn’t have been as close as it was. UW was 12 of 28 from the free-throw line. It makes just three or four more and there are no anxious moments late in the game.

UW was 6 of 15 from the line in the final 11:53 when it went into the bonus.

But no sense dwelling on the negative. Interim coach Fred Langley is 2-2 and has this team playing with more energy, intensity and fire.

And how about sophomore forward Amath M’Baye. He’s averaged 20.2 points over his last four games, and had a career-high 27 points in this one.

See my game story in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor what Langley said about M’Baye.

For now, here’s what junior center Adam Waddell said: “Amath’s been playing with a lot of confidence lately. We’ve been riding it and been the guy to go to to make a big play. He gets the crowd into it, and makes the athlete moves to help us win.”

Waddell’s blocked shot on sophomore forward Zach Bohannon secured the win. UW had a season-high nine blocked shots. Three were by M’Baye, and on one it looked like he jumped up, grabbed the net and blocked the shot. The rules state that should be goaltending, but no call was made.

UW had 11 offensive rebounds and forced 19 turnovers. It also shared the ball well with 17 assists on 25  baskets.

All ingredients for winning basketball.

UW (10-17, 3-10) now has to play the top three teams in the MWC, starting Saturday at 21-7 UNLV, followed by a home game with No. 4 San Diego State then at No. 7 BYU next week

That doesn’t seem to damper the Cowboys’ confidence right now.

“I think (since Langley took over as interim coach) it’s completely different and I think it’s for the good,” Waddell said. “We got beat by Air Force by 21 there. The past few weeks we’ve played with a lot of confidence. We’re going to try and keep this rolling.”

Added Langley: “We’re going to have some exciting basketball the rest of the year. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t talk about winning and losing in that locker room. We talk about execution. I don’t think our guys are going to be intimidated by going (to UNLV). They’re going to play their tails off and whatever will happen will happen.”

Nine guys played and eight saw double-digit minutes. The guy who didn’t — true freshman guard Joe Hudson — played nine minutes. Langley has shown he’s not afraid to play anybody and anytime.

And, UW got this win with leading scorer Desmar Jackson (15.2 ppg) scoring just two points.

A failure to communicate

Wyoming allowed only 23 points in the first half against UNLV, its lowest total in league play. The Rebels made only nine field goals and were 2 of 14 from 3-point range.

But in the second half UNLV shot 65.6 percent (21 of 32), outscored UW 51-34 and won 74-65.

How did UW go from being so good to so bad? Because of the end of the floor they were on.

“A lot of it was us not communicating (defensively), and in the second half we were on defense toward (UNLV’s) bench and we don’t have coach there and our bench there helping us out on defense,” junior point guard JayDee Luster said. “We need to communicate that much more on defense and we didn’t do that.”

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard a UW player say this about a poor defensive effort. It’s a little surprising to me at this point of the season this is still an issue. Coach Heath Schroyer acknowledged it, and was careful how he described his thoughts on it.

“It’s been a real issue for us all year,” he said. “A lot of times in the first half I’m there and I can call out everything and what’s coming. In the second half I’m not there, and this team hasn’t figured out or isn’t mature enough yet to really go out in the second half and be able to do that. I think JayDee was right in that was a big difference.”

A few notes from the game:

–UW’s nine turnovers tied for the third-fewest this season.

–Sophomore forward Amath M’Baye’s 13 points put him in double figures for the fourth straight game.

–Luster had a season-high eight assists, and his only turnover came late in the second half.

–All five UW starters scored before the first media timeout of the game.

For more on this game, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Can it get any worse for the Wyoming men’s basketball team?

Yes it can.

The Cowboys lost 72-51 at Air Force Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena, and the same problems reared their ugly heads: offense and perimter defense.

UW shot just 37.9 percent from the field, and allowed Air Force to make 11 of 19 3s. The Cowboys got to the free-throw line six times and were 4 of 23 from 3-point range.

“We flew at the shooters and they made some contested shots,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “I thought our kids played pretty hard. … But when you get down against them, they can hit a couple of 3 that will break your back.”

UW trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, and 23 late in the game.

Six of Air Force’s 3s came from the corner, which seems like nearly ever 3 is made from by the opponents. This continues to be a problem in UW’s zone defense, but Schroyer and Co. is sticking with the zone. I didn’t see any man-to-man defense in this game, and you would think this would be a game where UW physically matches up a little better than other squads in the MWC.

I thought sophomore forward Amath M’Baye had a nice game with 13 points and seven rebounds. He looked good around the basket. And sophomore forward Brian Gibson had six rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench. he missed three shots in the paint. But he plays hard and he can rebound.

I was really impressed with Air Force sophomore guard Michael Lyons. He led all scorers with 17 points, all in the first half. He’s long and athletic and a pretty good athlete. Senior guard Evan Washington may have had the most impressive line: 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, one blocked shot and only one turnover in 36 minutes. Sophomore guard Todd Fletcher, who averaged 4.6 points per game coming in, scored 13 and was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

Seems like a lot of players have career games against the Cowboys these days.

Injuries weren’t a factor in this game for UW. Everyone played who should have played. The Cowboys just got beat, and beat bad.

Hate to think what UNLV, No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU will do to this team in the next three games.

For more on the Air Force game, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Thiam has bruised toe

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer said Thursday senior forward Djibril Thiam has a bruised toe, which he aggravated in the Cowboys 73-60 loss at Colorado State Tuesday.

Schroyer said Thiam hurt the toe last week in practice, and injured it again going up for a layup in the first half at CSU.

Schroyer expects Thiam to start and play Saturday at home against New Mexico. Thiam is UW’s second-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and leading rebounder (5.7 rpg), but had only five points and three boards in 31 minutes at CSU.

Schroyer held a teleconference with the media in his office Thursday. Here’s some other news and notes from that:

–Sophomore forward Amath M’Baye picked up his fourth technical foul of the season in the second half against CSU. The foul came early in the second half and M’Baye wasn’t much of a factor after that. He finished with four points and six rebounds. Schroyer said M’Baye responded well to the tongue-lashing he gave him after the technical and the next day after the game.

“Amath has to play well for us to have success,” Schroyer said. “We’re putting a lot on him as a sophomore. He’s a very emotional player and sometimes his emotions get the best of him. But he does play with passion and it matters to him, which is a really good thing.”

–Schroyer described New Mexico center Alex Kirk and guard Kendall Williams as the two best freshmen in the Mountain West Conference. The 6-foot-11 Kirk set a New Mexico freshman record with 31 points in the Lobos’ 102-62 home win over Cal-State Bakersfield Wednesday.

“He’s good, but he’s going to be really, really good,” Schroyer said of Kirk. “He reminds me of a (former Utah and current St. Louis men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus) big; a big dude that can score on the block but step out and shoot it. Kind of like a Michael Doliac kind of guy.”

Williams is New Mexico’s second leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and shoots 53.8 percent from 3-point range. Schroyer added he thinks Williams is the most talented freshman in the MWC.

–About New Mexico senior point guard Dariese Gary, Schroyer said: “He’s the most underrated player in the league. His on-ball defense is the best in the conference. He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes his free throws. He’s as good of a point guard as there is in the league.”

–Schroyer also described New Mexico junior forward Drew Gordon, a 6-9 transfer from UCLA, is a future NBA player.

–Junior forward Afam Muojeke (knee) and junior center Adam Waddell (Achilles) were “OK” during Wednesday’s light practice and work-out session. Both are expected to play Saturday, but still are day-to-day.

Free throws frustrate Luster

Wyoming didn’t lose to Colorado State 73-60 because junior point-guard JayDee Luster missed 7 of 8 free throws.

That’s right, 7 of 8.

But it didn’t help, and if Luster makes a few more of those in either half the outcome could have been different. But the Cowboys made only six field goals in the second half, and allowed CSU to make 14 3s. Those things were more damaging.

Nonetheless, another frustrating loss for UW (7-8 overall, 0-1 MWC), and a frustrating night for Luster.

“I’ve been making free throws all year, and I’ve got to step up to the line and make free throws,” said Luster, who was a 79.7 percent free-throw shooter entering the game.

“When we needed the free throws, we didn’t make them. When we needed the layups, we didn’t make them. When we needed to take good shots, we didn’t. Everybody, myself included, can be a lot better.”

CSU senior guard Adam Nigon scored 21 points on 7 of 10 3-point shooting. Five different players made 3s for the Rams (11-4, 1-0).

“We didn’t get to shooters, and Nigon just kicked our ass,” he said.

UW wanted to limit the touches of CSU senior forward Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin. It did as both combined for 17 points, about 14 below their combined average.

But UW didnt get a lot from its post players. Amath M’Baye, Djibril Thiam, Brian Gibson and Adam Wadell combined for nine points and 12 rebounds. Gibson and Waddell didn’t score.

CSU had 22 assists on its 25 field goals. UW was better in the assist category with 12 assists on 20 field goals.

Liked what I saw from junior Francisco Cruz with 14 points. He seems to be doing better of creating his own shot off the dribble. Not great, but better.

Still, UW has lost 15 straight road games and 19 of 21 away from Laramie (including neutral site games) dating back to Feb. 28, 2009.

See Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on the game.