Jan. 12, 2012
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team begins its 13th season of Mountain West play on Saturday versus nationally-ranked New Mexico. Both the Cowboys and Lobos enter the conference opener with a 14-2 record to sit tied for second in the MW standings. Winners of 12 straight games, the Lobos are receiving votes in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, ranking No. 30 in both polls, but the Cowboys have historically played UNM tough. The Pokes are 3-2 in MW openers against the Lobos, as four of those five games have been decided by seven points or less and two games have gone to overtime. Saturday's contest, which is set to tip at 1:30 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium, should be another tight one with two of the top defensive teams in the MW.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at WyomingAthletics.com. Fans can also follow live stats and live audio of Wyoming's games, as well as live video of the postgame press conference, through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on the website. The contest will be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised on The Mtn.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming begins Mountain West action with a 14-2 record to sit tied with UNM and SDSU for second in the conference. The Cowboys are a perfect 11-0 in the Arena-Auditorium this season, their most wins at home since 2008-09, and are currently on a three-game winning streak after reeling off nine straight earlier in the season. UW has continued to play some of the best defense in the nation, but has also excelled on the offensive side the last three games. Against Idaho State on Monday, the Pokes shot season-high percentages from the field (56.5) and beyond the arc (54.5), while at least three Cowboys reached double figure points for the third consecutive game. The Cowboy offense was 13th in the last NCAA rankings in free throw percentage (75.8) and 24th in turnovers per game (11.7), but its the defense that has been rock solid. In the last national rankings, Wyoming was third in scoring defense at 52.3 points per game, 10th in field goal percentage defense (36.8) and 21st in three-point field goal percentage defense (28.5). Two of the three marks led the MW at the time. In its latest action, UW dominated Idaho State for a 73-49 win on Monday in the AA.
The preseason favorite to win the Mountain West, head coach Steve Alford has guided New Mexico to a 14-2 mark, including 3-0 on the road, and enter Saturday with the nation's fifth longest active winning streak at 12 games. The Lobos are currently tied for second in the MW standings and ranked No. 30 in both polls. UNM has a stingy defense similar to Wyoming, but the Lobos have played great on the offensive side as well to be one of the most balanced teams in the MW. New Mexico leads the conference and ranks seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.5), while earning the 18th spot in scoring defense at 57.8 points per game. The Lobos are third in the MW and 24th nationally in three-point percentage (39.4) to go with second and 11th in assists per game (17.3). UNM is scoring 75.6 points per game and ranks seventh in the nation in scoring margin (+17.8). In their latest action, the Lobos earned an 85-57 home win over North Dakota.
Each Team's Leaders
Four Cowboys are averaging in double figures in Luke Martinez, Francisco Cruz, Leonard Washington and Adam Waddell. Martinez, a redshirt junior guard, continues to be one of the top three-point shooters in the MW, including hitting five versus Idaho State, while Cruz, a senior guard, became the third current Cowboy with 500 points with nine against the Bengals. At 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, Washington currently ranks in the top 10 of the MW in four categories from his forward position. Waddell, a senior center, contributes 10.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, while senior guard JayDee Luster ranks fifth in the nation in assist-turnover ratio at 3.6. Martinez scored a career-high 23 points against Idaho State, as Waddell and Washington both added 12.
Tabbed as the MW's preseason player of the year, UNM's Drew Gordon has lived up to the hype so far. The senior forward has averaged a double-double at 12.7 points and 10.9 rebounds this season. He ranks 10th in the nation in rebounds and second in the MW, while leading the conference in blocks (1.1). His nine double-doubles this season are eighth in the nation. Sophomore guard Tony Snell contributes 13.8 points, good for seventh in the MW, and his 45 percent rate behind the arc is 25th in the nation. Sophomore guard Kendall Williams is UNM's other scorer in double figures at 11.5 points, while he also ranks fifth in the MW in assists (4.0). Senior forward A.J. Hardeman adds 4.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jamal Fenton could start in place of guard Hugh Greenwood, the MW preseason freshman of the year, who missed UNM's last game with an ankle injury.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 64-59 lead in the all-time series with New Mexico, but is 3-7 in its last 10 games with the Lobos. In the last meeting, UNM downed UW 68-57 in Albuquerque on Feb. 9, 2011, while the Lobos' last trip to Laramie was a 67-66 loss on Jan. 8, 2011. Francisco Cruz made a jumper with two seconds left to win that game, while Adam Waddell added a season-high 16 points. UW has opened MW play against UNM five times, going 3-2. Four of those five games have been decided by seven points or less, including two games that went into overtime and one into double overtime. UW is 5-7 in MW openers and 3-3 at home.
Wyoming continues conference play at Air Force on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m.