LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team will celebrate a class of five special seniors on Wednesday night before facing Utah State. This season's five Cowboy seniors have helped the Pokes (21-8, 10-6 MW) make a dramatic turnaround in their four years and are still just two games out of this season's Mountain West lead. The group now faces one of the hottest teams in the league, though, as the Aggies (18-10, 11-5 MW) have won six-straight games. Tip is set for 7 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium with Senior Night ceremonies preceding.
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 streamed 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
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming are fifth in the MW standings after a 69-57 loss at UNLV on Saturday. The Pokes trailed by 10 points midway through the second half, but cut it to three at 52-49 with 7:47 left. That would be as close as the Cowboys could get, though, as the Rebels responded with a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to put the lead to 13 with four minutes remaining. Wyoming would dip the lead into single digits at several points down the stretch, but UNLV always had an answer. The Cowboys shot just 39 percent (20-of-52) from the field and 41 percent (9-of-22) from deep compared to 48 percent (23-of-48) and 58 percent (11-of-19), respectively, for UNLV. The Rebels earned a 33-28 advantage on the boards and 15-5 in points off turnovers. On the season, Wyoming averages 61.7 points per game on 47 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys are second in the MW and 50th nationally in field-goal percentage. Defensively, the Pokes allow 56.0 points per game on 40 and 35 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is second in the MW and 10th in the NCAA, while its 13.6 fouls per game are first in the conference and second in the nation.
Head coach Stew Morrill and Utah State are 6-2 since beating Wyoming 56-44 on Jan. 27 in Logan, including an impressive six-game winning streak. Four of those victories have been by double figures and three have come on the road. Most recently, the Aggies dominated Air Force for a 74-60 road win on Saturday. Air Force cut USU's lead to four out of halftime, but the Aggies answered with back-to-back buckets to go back up 10, 35-25. The four-point difference was as close as the Falcons came in the second half, as Utah State closed out the game a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line over the final two minutes to ice the game. The Aggies average 67.0 points per game for fourth in the MW, while their 45 percent from the field is fourth and 40 percent beyond the arc is second and 16th in the NCAA. Defensively, Utah State allows 62.7 points for fifth in the conference. The Aggies rank second in the MW allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent from the field and second in three-point defense at 30 percent. USU's 1.42 assist-to-turnover ratio is first in the MW and 14th in the NCAA.
Each Team's Leaders
Junior guard Josh Adams claimed his fifth 20-point game of the season, and third in the last four contests, with 24 points at UNLV. He is now two points away from 1,000 for his career. He averages 12.7 points and 3.1 rebounds, while his team-high 3.5 assists per game rank third in the MW. He's also seventh in the league at 1.4 steals per game. Senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. added 10 points against the Rebels and has reached double figures in six of the last eight contests, as 60 of his 102 made baskets this season have been dunks. He contributes 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 73 percent from the field. Fellow senior forward Larry Nance Jr. paces the Pokes at 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Nance has had nine points in each of his two games back from mononucleosis, but is still shooting 53 percent from the field, good for 46th in the NCAA. Senior guard Riley Grabau has three triples in each of the last two games, as he contributes 8.8 points and 2.3 assists. Grabau can also shoot from the free throw line, as he leads the MW and NCAA at 95 percent from the charity stripe. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. rounds out Wyoming's probable starters at 6.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Sophomore guard Jalen Moore's 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds pace Utah State. He ranks sixth in the conference in points and seventh in boards, as he finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds against Air Force. Redshirt freshman forward David Collette is 10th in the MW at 13.1 points, while his 58 percent from the field is first in the conference and 15th in the NCAA. He adds 5.1 rebounds and a team-high 2.0 blocks. He notched 13 points and three blocks versus the Falcons. Junior guard Chris Smith is USU's other scorer in double figures at 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Junior guard Darius Perkins contributes 9.7 points and 3.3 assists, as he is fourth in the league in assists and third at 42 percent from deep. Freshman guard Julion Pearre rounds out USU's probable starters at 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, after a game-high 21 points versus Air Force. Utah State's roster this season features just two seniors.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 45-25 advantage in the all-time series with Utah State, including 27-6 in Laramie. The Aggies have not won at Wyoming since 1962. The home team has won the last five contests between the two, including a 56-44 Cowboy loss on Jan. 27 in the last meeting. Grabau tied a career high with five triples in that game, but the Aggies led by three at halftime and double digits early in the second half to snap UW's four-game road winning streak.
The Cowboys conclude the regular season at New Mexico on Saturday at 6 p.m. MT.