LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Storylines abound in Wednesday's Mountain West matchup between the University of Wyoming men's basketball team and Colorado State, but maybe most importantly, it's the Border War. The Cowboys (18-4, 7-2 MW) sit tied for first in the conference standings, while the Rams (19-3, 6-3 MW) are tied for third just a game back. The duo represents two of the three teams in the MW receiving votes in Monday's national polls. The game also showcases two of the leading candidates for MW Player of the Year in Wyoming's Larry Nance Jr. and Colorado State's J.J. Avila. Tip is set for 7 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or online at GoWYO.com. The contest will be aired online by the Mountain West Network and broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network. Fans can follow live stats, audio and MWN video of the game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on GoWYO.com.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming continues to pace the conference standings at 18-4 overall and 7-2 in league play after a 63-55 win over Nevada at home on Saturday. The Cowboys earned their biggest lead of the game at 45-32 with 13 minutes left in the second half, before the Wolf Pack ripped off a 9-0 run to cut the lead to two possessions. The advantage would dwindle to just one possession minutes later, but Wyoming would make 11 of its last 14 free throws to keep the Wolf Pack at arm's length down the stretch. The Pokes shot 41 percent (18-of-44) from the field and 35 percent (6-of-17) beyond the arc, but made 21 of its 26 free throws for 81 percent at the charity stripe. Nevada shot 42 percent (21-of-50) from the field and 79 percent (11-of-14) at the free throw line, but made just 2-of-11 from deep and was outrebounded 34-24. UW's 12 offensive boards were a season high, while Nevada's two threes tied a season low for a UW opponent. The Pokes committed just 11 fouls, but made 15 turnovers. On the season, Wyoming averages 62.8 points per game on 48 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys rank first in the MW and 23rd nationally in field-goal percentage, while their 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio is third in the MW and 43rd in the nation. Defensively, the Pokes allow 53.9 points per game on 40 and 33 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is second in the MW and fourth in the NCAA, while its 13.2 fouls per game are first and second, respectively.
Head coach Larry Eustachy and Colorado State have gone 5-1 since a 60-54 loss to Wyoming on Jan. 7 in Fort Collins to sit tied for third in the MW at 19-3 overall and 6-3 in league play. Most recently, the Rams dominated Fresno State, 80-57, on Saturday at home. In a game in which it never trailed, CSU led 35-22 at halftime and extended the lead to as many as 30 with seven minutes left. The Rams outrebounded the Bulldogs, 49-29, as 15 of those rebounds came on the offensive side, which led to 22 second-chance points and 38 points in the paint. The 49 total rebounds marked a new season high, as did the plus-20 rebounding advantage. Overall, the Rams average 74.0 points, first in the MW, on 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep. CSU's 7.7 threes per game are third in the league, while its 15.4 assists are second in the MW and 30th nationally. The Rams rank 16th in the NCAA in free throws attempted and 28th in makes. Defensively, the Rams allow 63.4 points, sixth in the conference, on 42 and 36 percent, respectively. CSU's plus-6.8 rebounding margin is first in the MW and 20th in the NCAA, while its 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the league and ranks 19th in the NCAA.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior guard Riley Grabau continued his hot shooting with 18 points against Nevada, as he hit three triples and went 9-of-9 at the free throw line. He averages 8.9 points and 2.2 assists, while his 94 percent from the free throw line this season ranks first in the MW and the NCAA. Senior forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Derek Cooke Jr. both earned double-doubles versus the Wolf Pack. Nance finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He paces the Pokes at 16.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, while his 55 percent from the field is 28th in the nation. Cooke contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. He averages 8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds, while his 75 percent from the field leads the league. Junior guard Josh Adams added 13 points against Nevada, as he averages 11.5 points and 3.6 assists. He ranks second in the MW in assists per game and fourth in steals with 1.5 per contest. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. rounds out UW's probable starters at 7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. His 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio is third in the conference.
Redshirt senior forward J.J. Avila leads Colorado State at 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game after a team-high 17 points against Fresno State. He ranks fifth in the MW in scoring, third in rebounding and sixth in field goal percentage at 55 percent. Senior guard Daniel Bejarano, a preseason All-MW selection, also averages 3.1 assists per game, good for seventh in the league, while adding 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. He ranks seventh in the MW in rebounds. Redshirt senior forward Stanton Kidd contributes 11.6 points, as his team-high 47 percent beyond the arc is fourth in the MW. Junior guard Joe De Ciman adds 7.9 points and 3.3 rebounds, while redshirt junior forward Tiel Daniels rounds out CSU's probable starters at 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. Kidd and De Ciman have started all 22 games for the Rams this season.
About the Series
Wednesday will be the 223rd meeting between Wyoming and Colorado State, as the Cowboys own a 130-92 advantage in the all-time series with Rams. The Pokes are 75-35 in Laramie, while Shyatt is 4-5 against CSU. In their last meeting, Wyoming won a 60-54 game in Fort Collins on Jan. 7. Nance finished with a team-high 15 points in that game, but it was redshirt sophomore guard Jason McManamen's three with 20 seconds left that gave the Cowboys the deciding edge. Hankerson and Adams had 13 points apiece. The Cowboys have not swept the season series since 2009.
The Cowboys play at Air Force on Saturday at noon MT.