UW-UNLV Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

UNLV (20-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) plays at Wyoming (18-8, 4-8) at 5:30 p.m. today in Laramie.

Question: UNLV has won 14 straight home games but has struggled on the road, especially in league play. What are the main reasons for the Rebels’ road woes?

Answer: When you say “struggled” you’re being too kind. The Rebels are 1-9 in their past 10 Mountain West road games, a pathetic skid that started with a 68-66 loss at Wyoming last Feb. 4. The coaches and players share the blame. The coaches are obviously not motivating the players or making the necessary adjustments on the road, and the players need to be held accountable for a lack of effort and intensity. UNLV’s past three losses at Air Force, Fresno State and Boise State were particularly disturbing because the team’s effort was poor. In addition to those factors, the Rebels have all kinds of problems scoring in their half-court offense, and most of the conference road games are played at a slower pace. Defense travels better than offense, too, and UNLV is weaker defensively under Dave Rice than it was under Lon Kruger. It’s an immature team with a relatively new coaching staff, so some struggles on the road can be expected, but 1-9 is ridiculous.

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UW-UNLV Q&A

Matt Youmans covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he answered five questions I had for him on Saturday’s game wt Wyoming.

Is the return of Heath Schroyer to Laramie a big deal down there with him or the team, or is it more for us in the media to bring up? Has Schroyer talked much about coming back? It’s not a big deal. Of the three assistants hired by Dave Rice, Schroyer was sort of the afterthought to most UNLV fans. Justin Hutson brought the reputation as an excellent recruiter and defensive coach from San Diego State. Stacey Augmon obviously is one of the Rebels’ five all-time greatest players, and he has the experience as an NBA assistant coach. Schroyer’s teams at Wyoming never really earned the respect of UNLV fans. But Jerry Tarkanian praised the hire of Schroyer from the start, and I will say Schroyer has been a very good addition to the staff. He’s a high-energy guy who gets involved in practices and on the sideline in games. Schroyer has not talked much about the Cowboys, but he did say recently he’s not that surprised by their success because he recruited several of those players and felt he was always short-handed there because of injuries. The Rebels’ coaches will downplay the Schroyer theme heading into this game. But if they win, you can bet on some players saying something like, “We really wanted to win this one for Coach Schroyer.”
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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.

MWC men’s hoops news and notes

Wyoming’s next opponent, Air Force on Saturday, has already matched its win total from last season at 10. The Falcons are 10-6 and 1-2 in Mountain West Conference play and nearly beat UNLV at home last Saturday before losing 64-52.

“They’re playing witha lot more confidence, and the biggest thing is (Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds) has all his guys healthy,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “They’re much improved. They’re a lot better and they’re hard to play. They’re very good at home. They had Vegas on ropes and beat Utah at home.”

UW hopes to use this week to get some guys healthy and figure out a way to snap a 17-game road losing streak. For more on that, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

Some other news and notes from Monday’s MWC coaches teleconference:

–Air Force may have beaten UNLV last Saturday if it had made free throws, but it was only 12 of 25 from the line.

–San Diego State made 13 3-pointers in its 87-77 win at New Mexico. The Aztecs (19-0, 4-0) remain No. 6 in the nation.

–Brigham Young senior guard Jackson Emery will be honored prior to Tuesday’s home game with TCU for breaking the school’s career record for steals, previously held by Danny Ainge. Reynolds described Emery as one of the best shooters in the MWC. Emery shoots 38.8 percent from 3-point range.

–UNLV coach Lon Kruger said senior guard Tre’Von Willis (knee) is probable for Wednesday’s home game against Colorado State. Willis didn’t play at Air Force.

–Brigham Young senior guard Jimmer Fredette is getting a lot of national attention these days after his 47-point game last Tuesday at Utah. He was named MWC Player of the Week for the third straight week, fifth time this season and 12th time in his career.

“He’s more of a humble kid now than he was then,” said Cougars coach Dave Rose when asked how Fredette has handled all the attention this season. “At times I think it’s almost embarassing for him.”