James evolving, still growing as a player for Cowboys

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.

Justin James

Justin James

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.”

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UW vs. Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

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

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What is the health status of the Bulldogs heading into this game as they were without four frontcourt players in their last game at Nevada?

Fresno State will go into the game short, but could have at least one player back. Forward Torren Jones has been ruled out and forward Karachi Edo and center Terrell Carter II are doubtful. Forward Paul Watson (calf) could be back, but coach Rodney Terry said they are not going to push and risk further injury. Watson would be a critical piece against the Cowboys – he defended Josh Adams most of the second half in that first matchup down here and he was 3 of 12 over those 18 or so minutes.

Fresno State’s win over first-place San Diego State last week showed how good the Bulldogs are, but aside from the recent rash of injuries and illnesses, what has led to some of the inconsistent play with this group? 

That’s a very good question. It’s a bit weird for an older team with guys like Marvelle Harris, Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis that have played a lot of college basketball, but the consistency of effort hasn’t always been there. I think the loss at San Jose State with a chance to win a third conference game in a row was a tipping point, though, because they have been a lot more competitive since even while missing some key pieces. The Bulldogs beat UNLV without Jones, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in the first meeting. They beat San Diego State without Jones and Edo and with Watson going down early in the second half. They came from 13 down in the second half to force overtime before losing at Nevada, losing Carter that morning. They’re just are competing much better now than they did early in the year.

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Players weigh in on toughest places to play in MW men’s basketball

I caught up with players from all 11 Mountain West teams and asked them the toughest places to play in the league during MW Men’s Basketball Media Day in Las Vegas.

As you will see, no big surprises where some of the toughest places are, but it’s still fun to see some of the players’ reactions.

G Josh Adams, Sr., Wyoming: New Mexico. Packed house. Very loud. Their fans know everything about you, and they know basketball.”

G Marqueze Coleman, Sr., Nevada: San Diego State and New Mexico. The crowds there are incredible.

G/F Tyron Criswell, Sr., Nevada: San Diego State. Their student section was wild. You couldn’t hear anything. We had to coach ourselves.

G Joe De Ciman, Sr., Colorado State: The Pit at New Mexico. You walk down that ramp and that’s what college basketball is all about.

F Tiel Daniels, Sr. Colorado State: The Pit.

G/F Anthony Drmic, Sr., Boise State: Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah State. Especially Wyoming with the altitude. 

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UW-Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming. Tip-off is at 5 p.m. MT at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

He’s only been back for one game, but what kind of impact do you think junior point guard Cezar Guerrero will have on the Bulldogs?

Guerrero helps them a lot, just from a depth standpoint. I would expect he will work his way back into the starting lineup down the road, but he can play at the one and the two

Cesar Guerrero

Cesar Guerrero

(the year he was at Oklahoma State he played off the ball) and having another guy that can score the ball shouldn’t hurt. The Bulldogs went through a stretch where they didn’t have a lot of options and they have not had a lot of scoring off the bench. In the first four Mountain West games before Guerrero became eligible, the bench had scored only 33 points and 19 of that came from Marvelle Harris, who did not start at New Mexico after showing up late for a practice.

After a slow start to the season, Fresno State has won four in a row and are tied for the league lead. What has changed that’s led to the improved play?

They got healthy, really. Julien Lewis, the Texas transfer, missed 18 days of preseason practice due to a concussion and got off to a very slow start. Forward Alex Davis suffered a high ankle sprain in a preseason scrimmage, and he was not close to ready at the start of the season. He tried to play, but they ended up shutting him down for close to a month. It’s not like they were doing some stuff in practice and just not playing – they weren’t even able to practice. But both of those guys are much better now than they were one month ago. Paul Watson got off to a slow start shooting the ball, as well, so they were pretty limited. That’s three starters right there. The inexperience at the point guard position also hurt them – they had three games at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida that they lost by six or fewer points and could have won all of them had they managed the late-game situations with the ball better. One of those losses is to Marist, which is 1-15. So, they’re healthy now. They’ve had some time to practice and play together with all of their pieces. The play at the point has improved with Emmanuel Owootoah and Harris, and now with Guerrero returning.

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UW-Fresno St. men’s basketball Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 7:05 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. The game will be televised on Root Sports.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

The Bulldogs have won five straight, which started with a 67-62 win over Wyoming Jan. 29. What have the Bulldogs done well to go on this run?

Simple as it sounds, they’re just competing much better. It started with a 19-point loss at Colorado State, in which the Rams just bullied them down the final 10 minutes and ran away from them. Colorado State was a plus-16 on the boards, scored 30 points in the paint and hit 52.4 percent of its shots in the second half, which for that team is a big number. In beating the Rams on Saturday, they turned a lot of those numbers completely around. In the first half, Fresno State had an 18-4 edge in points in the paint, hit 53.8 percent of the shots it took and held up better on the glass. The Bulldogs also forced 11 turnovers in the first half against a team that hadn’t turned it over that many times in 20 of its first 25 games.

They flew home after that loss in Fort Collins and went straight from the airport to the gym and practiced for two hours, which they never do, working on box-outs and getting after the 50-50 balls and just playing a stronger game. They needed to get tougher, and they have.

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UW-Fresno State postgame thoughts

In coach Larry Shyatt’s mind, there were three things that resulted in Wyoming’s 67-62 loss at Fresno State Wednesday night.

— Missed free throws. UW was 9 of 17 from the line, missed six in the second half and five straight at one point.

— Not getting to as many loose balls as Fresno State.

— Some key turnovers when trying to get to the basket.

Here is some second half highlights from the game:


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UW-Fresno State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State men’s basketball for the Fresno Bee, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 8 p.m. at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

Despite its record the Bulldogs have been close in a lot of conference games, including going to overtime in the last two. What are the struggles with this team right now?

The Bulldogs are just young and have had trouble making plays to finish games. The double-overtime loss to Nevada they had the lead at the end of regulation and gave up a layup to Deonte Burton to tie with about 15 seconds to go and then couldn’t get much of a shot coming out of a timeout, and then in the first overtime they had a lead and let Cole Huff get to the rim for a layup with one second to go. Layups … That logically can’t happen, but it did.

They made similar mistakes in the overtime loss at UNLV, only at the offensive end. UNLV gave them a lot of chances to win it in regulation and the overtime, but they couldn’t make a play. A freshman turned the ball over on one key possession. They got switched into a tough shot on another. They rushed a put-back just ahead of the buzzer and missed that.

They’re taking some lumps learning how to really compete and succeed at this level.

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