Feb. 13, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team will look to break out of a fourth-place tie in the Mountain West standings on Wednesday when the Cowboys host Air Force at 6 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. UW (18-6, 4-4) is tied with Colorado State and TCU at 4-4 in the league and now has a chance to pick up a key conference win against an AFA (11-11, 1-7) squad the Pokes beat 64-53 in Colorado Springs on Jan. 18.
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
The Cowboys started the second half of the conference season with a hard-fought 48-38 loss at New Mexico last Saturday. UW held the Lobos to a season-low 19 points in the first half, but UNM outscored the Cowboys by 14 points in the second half and limited UW to four points over the final six minutes to earn the come-from-behind win. The loss dropped the Pokes to 18-6 overall and 4-4 in the MW to sit in a three-way tie for fourth place with Colorado State and TCU. New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State are tied for first at 6-2 in league play. Defense continues to be the starting point for Wyoming, as the Cowboys held the Lobos 27 points below their season average. The Pokes were third in scoring defense (54.0 ppg) in the latest NCAA rankings, 30th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.1) and 46th in field goal percentage defense (40.0). All three marks rank in the top three of the Mountain West. Offensively, UW ranked 13th in the NCAA in free throw percentage (76.1), 23rd in turnover margin (+3.3) and 32nd in scoring margin (+10.4).
Air Force enters the week tied with Boise State for last in the MW standings at 1-7 in conference play and 11-11 overall, after dropping a 72-61 home game to the Broncos last Saturday. The Falcons trailed 27-24 at halftime but BSU started the second half with an 11-0 run en route to its first MW win. Air Force is on a seven-game losing streak and now faces its second game under interim head coach Dave Pilipovich after Jeff Reynolds was let go on Feb. 8. The Falcons are 1-5 on the road this season. Air Force has a solid defense, ranking third in the conference and 24th nationally in scoring defense at 59.8 points per game, but is the only team in the MW to score less than Wyoming at 62.0 points on the offensive end. The Falcons are third in the league and 50th nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.9) and 46th in field goal percentage defense (40.4). One of the most disciplined teams in the MW, Air Force is third in assists per game (14.1) and assist turnover ratio (1.0).
Each Team's Leaders
Wyoming continues to have a balanced offensive attack behind the inside presence of redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington and senior center Adam Waddell and the outside shooting of redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez and senior guard Francisco Cruz. Washington ranks in the top 10 of eight different MW categories, including leading the league at 58.2 percent from the field, while averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Martinez paces Wyoming at 13.0 points, thanks to a conference-high 2.8 threes per game, and also leads UW at 1.9 steals. Cruz contributes in double figures at 12.3 points and adds 2.1 assists, while Waddell scores 9.7 points per game is sixth in the MW at 76.3 percent from the free throw line. Senior guard JayDee Luster is 26th nationally in assist-turnover ratio and averages 3.6 assists per contest. Cruz scored 14 points against New Mexico.
Junior guard Michael Lyons missed six games in the non-conference season, but has rebounded to average a team-high 14.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward Mike Fitzgerald also scores in double figures at 10.9 points, thanks to a team-high 36 threes, while junior center Taylor Broekhuis adds 9.1 points and a team-high 5.2 boards. He ranks sixth in the MW in rebounds. Freshman guard/forward Kamryn Williams is fifth in the league in blocks at nearly one per game to go with 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds. Junior guard Todd Fletcher is seventh in the MW in assists at 3.5 and also seventh in steals at 1.5. Lyons scored 24 against the Broncos and Broekhuis added 10.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 73-30 lead in the all-time series with Air Force, including a 38-11 mark in Laramie. The Cowboys are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings with the Falcons and won a 64-53 game in Colorado Springs on Jan. 18 in the last matchup. Air Force's last win in Laramie was a 64-62 overtime victory on Jan. 16, 2008.
The Cowboys travel to Colorado State for a 7 p.m. showdown on Saturday.