UW predictable in trying to get Naughton going early

The Wyoming men’s basketball team has been predictable at the start of games, and first-year coach Allen Edwards is fine with it.

Jordan Naughton

Jordan Naughton

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.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Plenty of talk about Wyoming’s 102-100 4OT win over Fresno State Wednesday night, along with some chatter about UW football, women’s hoops and even a little on wrestling.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

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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MW men’s basketball: mediocrity or competitive?

First-year Wyoming coach Allen Edwards was asked Monday why he thinks the Cowboys’ opponent Tuesday — San Diego State — has been off this season. The Aztecs enter the game 11-9 overall and 3-5 in the Mountain West. They were picked to win the conference in the preseason by the league’s head coaches and select media. I was one of those media members, and also picked the Aztecs to win it.

“I think it’s because the league is more balanced than it has been. yet they’re only losing by a few points,” Edwards said. “Last year when going through league 16-2, they got a lot of wins by close margins. This year, they’ve not found a way to do that consistently. It may look like they’re having a down year, but many of those losses could have been flipped.”

That’s a good and fair point.

San Diego State is 0-6 in games decided by six points or less, or two possessions. Four of its five MW losses has been by six points or less, including three by three points or less. The Aztecs lost their last two games by a combined four points, but held double-digit leads in both.

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Lieberman becoming pesky problem for opposing teams

If someone calls you “a pest” you wouldn’t think it’s a compliment.

It is if you’re Wyoming junior point guard Jeremy Lieberman.

Jeremy Lieberman

Jeremy Lieberman

Over his last six games, the 6-foot-1 Lieberman has averaged nearly five points per game, and his assist-to-turnover-ratio is 2-to-1. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but isn’t the only thing first-year coach Allen Edwards has seen from Lieberman.

“He’s embraced the defensive part of it, and he’s taken it upon himself to be a pest on the ball,” Edwards said. “I thought he was really good at San Jose State (an 80-70 UW win where Lieberman had nine points on Jan. 18), and has been really good since with him taking on that role.”

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Jan. 26.

A lot of UW men’s basketball talk as the Cowboys held on for a 66-65 home win Wednesday against UNLV, as well as a look-ahead to Saturday’s home game with Boise State.

There also was some football talk as UW is less than a week away from signing day.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

Edwards offers three keys to closing out games

First-year Wyoming men’s basketball coach Allen Edwards feels like his team is “right there” in terms of closing out and winning close games in conference play.

Allen Edwards

Allen Edwards

However, UW (13-7 overall, 3-4 Mountain West) isn’t there yet. Two of the Cowboys’ four conference losses were by single digits. But even in an 85-70 loss at Fresno State on Jan. 4, UW was close in the second half before things fell apart.

“We can’t continue to be just right here. Have to take the next step to get over the hump,” Edwards said.

Edwards on Monday listed three things he told his players they must do:

  1. Taking care ball.
  2. Don’t allow offensive rebounds.
  3. Positioning and execution on defense.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Jan. 19.

A lot of UW football talk with signing day less than two weeks away. There also was a fair share of conversation on UW men’s and women’s basketball as both teams defeated San Jose State Wednesday.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

Cowboys must avoid outside distractions at San Jose State

A small arena where very few fans attend the games.

That sums up San Jose State’s home-court advantage in a nutshell, and what Wyoming faces when it plays there at 8 p.m. MT Wednesday.

Allen Edwards

Allen Edwards

For a minute, let’s take away what the Cowboys will face player-wise in this game. The Spartans’ home arena — The Event Center — is the smallest in the Mountain West at 5,000. Rarely is it half full. It resembles more of a high school gym than one for college basketball.

A couple of years ago when I covered a UW game there, the students were not back in school and the facilities crew didn’t have the heat turned on. It was down-right cold in there.

It’s not like playing in MW arenas like the Pit at New Mexico or Viejas Arena at San Diego State in terms of loud and abundant fans, but it presents a different challenge for many teams.

First-year UW coach Allen Edwards has seen that first-hand as an assistant for the Cowboys the previous five seasons. Wednesday’s game will be his first there as a head coach, and already knows one thing he has to be leery of.

“It’s a quiet gym, and it’s one of those games where you can’t get on (officials) becuase everyone hears you, and the (officials) take it personal when they feel like everyone hears you,” Edwards said.

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