UW 67, Utah State 65: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 67-65 win over Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

1. Charles in charge: Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. silenced a lot of his critics with a career-high 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Hankerson also had five rebounds. Yes, he missed two free throws late that would have sealed the game in the final seconds, but his shooting and slashing to the basket were two of the biggest factors in UW’s win. At the time, no one other than junior guard Josh Adams was consistently scoring, and Hankerson’s offense not only gave UW a boost, but sparked other guys like senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and senior guard Riley Grabau — who all scored in double figures.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

2. Adams’ A-game: A game-high 19 points to go along with six assists and only two turnovers. In his last two games against Utah State, Adams has 37 points, 14 assists and two turnovers. He was aggressive with the ball, had some spectacular plays around the basket, including a follow-up dunk in the second half that had him trending nationally on Twitter for a while, and also part of ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Plays. When Adams plays like that, UW is more than formidable. He will be tested in Friday night’s semifinals as he likely will be guarding Boise State senior guard Derrick Marks, the Mountain West Player of the Year.

Here is coach Larry Shyatt, Adams, Nance and Hankerson after the game:


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MW men’s basketball power rankings/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 (17-5 overall, 7-2 MW): The Aztecs move up to the top spot after a pair of home wins last week. They have the league’s best defense, but must go on the road twice this week — including a game at Boise State Sunday.

2. Boise State (15-6, 5-3): The hottest team in the MW with a five-game winning streak. Senior guard Derrick Marks leads the league in scoring (19.6 ppg) and has won the league’s player of the week honors three times. He is a front-runner for player of the year. A big week for the Broncos: at Utah State today and home against San Diego St. Sunday.

3. Colorado State (19-3, 6-3): A close loss at Boise State hurt, but the Rams are still playing well and have a lot of weapons. A rematch with Wyoming Wednesday should be one of the better games in the league this week.

4. Wyoming (18-4, 7-2): A sloppy loss at Utah State last week was uncharacteristic for the Cowboys, but they rebounded nicely at home vs. Nevada. There isn’t much separation among the top four teams. UW must do a better job of protecting the ball as it has had seven straight games with 13 or more turnovers.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings/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. Wyoming (17-3 overall, 6-1 MW): The Cowboys haven’t always been the most impressive looking team, but they are in first place and enter the week 3-0 in road conference games. The toughness — mentally and physically — of this team is impressive. As former Oakland Raiders coach and owner Al Davis used to say: “Just win, baby.”

2. Colorado State (18-2, 5-2): The Rams were great in a 79-73 home win over San Diego State, and have won four in a row since a 60-54 home loss to Wyoming on Jan. 7. A road game Tuesday at Boise State will be interesting.

3. San Diego State (15-5, 5-2): Nearly completed the comeback at Colorado State, and still by far the best defensive team in the conference. Key will be if this team can shoot the ball. If it is just average, it will win most — if not all — of its remaining games.

4. Boise State (14-6, 4-3): Winners of four straight and figuring out how to win close games. Tough to say this team is better without leading scorer Anthony Drmic — out with a season-ending ankle injury. But the Broncos are playing good basketball, and senior guard Derrick Marks is making a case as the league’s player of the year. He leads the MW in scoring (19.2 ppg).

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UW-Boise State postgame thoughts, notes, quotes and video

One thing you can say about this Wyoming men’s basketball team — it does a good job with halftime adjustments.

For the third time in four conference games UW trailed at the half. Saturday, it was down 31-30 at home to Boise State. The Broncos made 6 of 14 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. They only made four 2-point baskets.

But the Cowboys played better defense, had some spectacular offensive plays and made all 10 of their free throws in the second half for a 65-54 victory in front of a solid crowd of 7,024 — the second largest of the season — Saturday afternoon at the Arena-Auditorium.

UW won its seventh straight game, 13th in a row at home and sits atop the Mountain West at 15-2 overall and 4-0 in league play — the only undefeated team in the MW right now.

Boise State entered the game leading the MW in scoring (71.8 ppg) and 3-point shooting percentage (38.3). It shot 40 percent for the game at 10 of 25, which ties for the most 3-point baskets UW has allowed this season.

Sophomore forward James Webb III — at 6-foot-9 — was 5 of 7 from 3. He came into the game 10 of 29 on the season. But aside from Webb, UW did a good job on the other Boise State players from the perimeter. No one made more than one 3, and UW made senior guard Derrick Marks get most of his points from outside the arc. Marks had 16 points, but only one 3-pointer.

“In first half we gave Webb too many wide open 3s,” UW senior forward Larry Nance said. “He was still 5 of 7 but he hit three in the first half that were wide open. Their bigs like to shoot the 3. That is their threat, and ours is inside. It was a clash of play styles.”

Coach Larry Shyatt said UW also did a good job of switching defenses from man to zone in the second half, and recognizing those switches. Here is Shyatt after the game:


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UW-Boise State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Dave Southorn, who covers Boise State men’s basketball for the Idaho Statesman, on Saturday’s game at the University of Wyoming.

Tip-off between UW (14-2 overall, 3-0 Mountain West) and Boise State (10-5, 0-2) is at 4 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Follow on Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

 

How big an impact has it and will it be for Boise State after it lost senior guard Anthony Drmic to a season-ending ankle injury?

It obviously was going to have an effect, but we’ve seen pretty quickly just how big of a difference it’s made. His scoring and his leadership would no doubt have helped during the three-game losing streak (losses by three, six and one). Without a 1,500-point scorer, the Broncos haven’t yet found a consistent scoring option since he’s been out the last month.

 

Who has and needs to step up in his place?

Senior guard Derrick Marks has picked up a lot of the slack, scoring 31 on Saturday against Utah State. He’s been outstanding for the most part this season, making 30-of-52 3s after making 19-of-66 as a junior. But he’s always been productive. Boise State needs others to do so. Sophomore forward Nick Duncan had made 1-of-26 3s in three-and-a-half games before making three in the second half against the Aggies. If he gets the outside shot going, that will help make up for Drmic’s long-range ability. Also keep an eye on sophomore forward James Webb III, an athletic sort the Broncos have lacked in recent years. Webb averaged 13.7 points per game from Nov. 28-Dec. 20, but 7.5 in the four games since.

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UW-Boise State men’s hoops postgame thoughts

Larry Nance Jr. said he redeemed himself.

A week ago, he didn’t make the shots UW needed late in its game at Nevada and the Cowboys lost 61-58.

Saturday night, Nance made a short baseline jumper with 1.6 seconds to play to give UW a 52-50 win at Boise State.

Here is the video of that shot and some other highlights from the final possessions.

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UW-Boise State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Dave Southorn, who covers Boise State men’s basketball for the Idaho Statesman about Saturday’s 7 p.m. game with the University of Wyoming at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Follow on Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

Expectations are high for Boise State based on returning most of its team from one that went to the NCAA Tournament last season. How have they managed those expectations?

One of the things that impressed me over the offseason was that they embraced the expectations, that they wanted to live up to them. Returning 92.4 percent of your scoring certainly helps, too. With that, they knew how hard it was just to simply get an at-large last season, so they know there are things like winning the games they’re expected to, and not going one-and-done at the MW tournament as examples of what needs to be done to perhaps meet those goals.

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All-MW men’s basketball team announced

Here is the link for the 2012-13 All-Mountain West men’s basketball team.

http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/031113aah.html

The team was selected by the coaches and selected media, and I was one of those selected to vote.

My first team was the same as the coaches and other media members. I also picked New Mexico junior guard Kendall Williams as the Player of the Year, New Mexico’s Steve Alford as the Coach of the Year, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett as Freshman of the Year and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson as the Newcomer of the Year.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 12 New Mexico (25-4 overall, 12-2 MW, 2 RPI): Clinched the conference title with one week to go in the regular season. Second in the league in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, but more importantly, first in both categories in league games at 58.6 ppg and 37.7 percent, respectively. When post players Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow are playing well, this team is tough to beat.

2. UNLV (22-7 overall, 9-5 MW, 14 RPI): The Rebels have won four straight and may be playing the best basketball of any team in the conference right now. Junior forward Mike Moser is playing up to expectations after some early-season injuries. They end the season at home with Boise State tonight and Fresno State Saturday, and have the inside track to be the second seed at the MW Tournament in their home arena next week.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 16 New Mexico (22-4 overall, 9-2 MW, 3 RPI): Remains No. 1 this week with a half-game lead over Colorado State. Junior guard Kendall Williams leads the conference in minutes played and is second in assists (4.67 per game). Other than sophomore center Alex Kirk’s 1.64 blocked shots per game (second in the conference), no other player ranks in the top five in statistical categories it tracks. Shows that this is one of the most complete teams in the conference with several players that can hurt teams. The Lobos play at Colorado State Saturday.

2. No. 22 Colorado State (21-4 overall, 8-2 MW, 13 RPI): If the Rams are going to win the league title, this could be the pivotal week with games at UNLV Wednesday and at home against New Mexico Saturday where they have won 27 straight. A road win at Air Force last week was impressive, but one at UNLV would be even bigger. New Mexico may be the most complete team in the conference, but the Rams arguably have the best starting five, all of which are seniors.

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