There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.
A first-year coach.
First-year players, and others with bigger roles.
Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.
Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.
“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.
Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.
Morris Marshall’s career with the Wyoming men’s basketball team hasn’t been full of a lot of bright spots.
The 6-foot-4 guard came to UW last season from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida, and he averaged three minutes in eight games in 2015-16.
This season, with a new coach and more up-tempo offense Marshall’s role figured to increase. However, he’s dealt with a nagging shin injury since the summer. Although he’s been healthy the last few weeks, Marshall has played in only 13 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per contest.
Marshall’s final home regular-season game for the Cowboys is at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Jose State. Will he play, and how much, remains to be seen. But whether he plays or not, Marshall’s been an important part of this team according to one of its key players.
After Wyoming’s 78-73 home loss to Colorado State Tuesday, first-year coach Allen Edwards said at some point his players must get what he and his staff are telling them and go out and do it.
For those of you who missed it, here is Edwards’ complete postgame comments:
To me, there seems to be a communication problem between the coaching staff and the players, which led me to write column which ran Thursday in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and online at wyosports.net. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2kPmH9h
Lou Adams started both halves in Wyoming’s 102-100 four-overtime home win over Fresno State last Wednesday, but played only at total of seven minutes.
First-year coach Allen Edwards didn’t like the energy Adams showed on the floor, so he didn’t play him when it mattered most.
Adams, a junior guard in his first season with the Cowboys after transferrring from Odessa College in Texas, got the message Edwards was conveying. He scored a team-best 16 points and three steals in 24 minutes in Wyoming’s 81-74 loss at Utah State last Saturday. The points were the most Adams scored in a MW game, and tied for the second-most minutes he’s played in a game this season.
“Lou came out with more energy, but at the same time, it has to be more of a consistent thing,” Edwards said. “He seems to have figured it out, and we will go with that from there.”
Added Adams: “I was just trying to help my team win and do the little things.”
The Wyoming men’s basketball team has been predictable at the start of games, and first-year coach Allen Edwards is fine with it.
The Cowboys (16-9 overall, 6-6 Mountain West) almost always look to get the ball to sophomore post Jordan Naughton on its first few offensive possessions. It did so in their 102-100 four-overtime win over Fresno State Wednesday night. Naughton scored in the pain on UW’s second offensive series.
“I don’t care if opponents know we’re going to him or not, we’re going to him,” Edwards said. “We want to get him going because I think he can be a really good player in this league. When he demands the ball, he’s a much different basketball player than when he’s just out there.”
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Naughton has played in all 25 games this season for UW, and started 24. His numbers aren’t eye-popping at 5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 14.8 minutes per game.
But he’s had some good games and moments for the Cowboys this season.
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.
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.”
Another recruiting class is in the books for Wyoming football as the Cowboys signed 24 players Wednesday.
In 20-plus years of covering UW sports, I’ve never heard a coach have a bad thing to say about their recruiting classes — no matter the sport and no matter the coach. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a coach say: “This class is OK, not great, but OK,” or “We didn’t sign a very good class.”
One big thing a lot of people — and the media – looks at in recruiting classes is the number of stars by their names given out by the numerous online recruiting websites like rivals.com, 247sports, scout.com — just to name a few.
Those of you who follow UW football and know UW football know that these national outlets normally don’t think highly of the Cowboys’ recruiting classes. Four and five-star recruits don’t sign with UW. The result are classes ranked near the bottom of all the 120-plus Football Bowl Subdivision teams.