Feb. 9, 2012
After a 68-66 upset of No. 11/13 UNLV at home last Saturday, the University of Wyoming men's basketball team faces a tough road test at New Mexico this weekend. The fourth-place Cowboys (18-5, 4-3) look to keep pace in the tight Mountain West race, but the second-place Lobos (19-4, 5-2) have won their last four contests by an average of 26 points and continue to receive votes in both polls. A tilt between the top two defenses in the league, UW seeks a measure of revenge in Albuquerque after UNM handed the Cowboys their first home loss of the season on Jan. 14. Tip is set for 1:30 p.m. in The Pit.
Fans can follow live stats and live audio of Wyoming's game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on WyomingAthletics.com. The contest will be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised on The Mtn.
A Look at the Matchup
The Cowboys ended the first half of the conference season on a high note by knocking off No. 11/13 UNLV, 68-66, last Saturday in the Arena-Auditorium. The win moved UW to 18-5 overall and 4-3 in the MW, while earning the Cowboys their first victory over a ranked opponent since defeating sixth-ranked Gonzaga in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. UW enters the weekend tied with Colorado State for fourth in the conference standings. Wyoming continues to hold opponents under 60 points, as UNLV was just the fourth UW opponent to break the mark this season. The Cowboys were fourth in scoring defense (54.3 ppg) in the latest NCAA rankings, 30th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.2) and 49th in field goal percentage defense (40.1). All three marks rank in the top three of the Mountain West. Offensively, UW ranked ninth in the NCAA in free throw percentage (76.3), 24th in turnover margin (+3.2) and 26th in scoring margin (+11.3).
The Lobos were picked to win the MW in the preseason media poll and enter Saturday tied for second with UNLV in the league standings at 5-2 and 19-4 overall. New Mexico opened the conference season with a win in Laramie, but then lost to San Diego State and UNLV. The Lobos have rebounded to convincingly win their next four contests by an average of 26 points. Most recently, UNM earned a 65-49 win at Boise State last Saturday and continued to receive votes in both polls. Similar to Wyoming, the Lobos have a stingy defense. New Mexico leads the conference in field goal percentage defense (37.6) and three-point field goal percentage defense (29.6) to rank eighth and 24th in the nation in the respective categories, while ranking 13th nationally in scoring defense (58.2 ppg). Offensively, the Lobos are second in the MW in scoring offense (74.6 ppg), three-point field goal percentage (39.7) and assists (17.0). One of the most balanced teams in the MW, New Mexico has the best scoring margin (+16.4) and rebounding margin (+7.1).
Each Team's Leaders
Wyoming reached a balanced attack in its last outing, as four Cowboys scored more than 14 points. Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington and senior guard Francisco Cruz both notched 16, while redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez added 15 and senior center Adam Waddell had 14. Washington ranks in the top seven of six different MW categories thanks to 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while Cruz has at least four assists in each of the last three games and scores 12.2 Martinez continues to be one of the top three-point shooters in the conference, averaging 13.1 points, and Waddell adds 9.7 points thanks to a team-high 77.8 percent from the free throw line. Senior guard JayDee Luster continues to rank nationally in assist-turnover ratio, but has also played some lock-down defense lately.
New Mexico is paced by Drew Gordon, who was tabbed the MW's preseason player of the year. The senior forward averages 12.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, ranking second in the league and 17th nationally in boards, and leads the MW in blocks (1.2). Sophomore guard Tony Snell contributes a team-high 12.8 points, thanks to a 42 percent rate behind the arc, which is third in the conference. Sophomore guard Kendall Williams is UNM's other scorer in double figures at 12.3 points, while he also ranks fifth in the MW in assists (4.3). Senior forward A.J. Hardeman adds 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, while guard Hugh Greenwood, the MW preseason freshman of the year, rounds out UNM's probable starters at 5.9 points and 2.8 assists. Greenwood missed the Jan. 14 meeting between the two programs with an ankle injury. Williams had 18 points against BSU and Snell added 13.
About the Series
The Pokes own a 64-60 lead in the all-time series with New Mexico, but are 2-8 in their last 10 games with the Lobos. In the last meeting, UNM earned a 72-62 win in Laramie on Jan. 14 to open the conference season for both squads. Wyoming's last win in The Pit was a 103-91 victory on Feb. 15, 2003.
Wyoming hosts Air Force on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.