Pokes Start Defense of MW Tourney Title with Utah State on Wednesday

March 7, 2016

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

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Last year in Las Vegas it was three wins and a title. This year the University of Wyoming men's basketball team hopes it will be four wins and the same result. The eighth-seeded Cowboys (14-17, 7-11 MW) start their tournament title defense at the 2016 Mountain West Championships against ninth-seeded Utah State on Wednesday at noon MT in the Thomas & Mack Center. Wyoming began last year's run with a win over the Aggies (15-14, 7-11 MW) and poured in a school-record 20 threes in the only meeting between the two this season.

Fans can follow live stats, audio and Mountain West Network video through the gameday central page on GoWYO.com. The contest will also be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network.

A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming concluded the regular season with an 81-78 home win over San Jose State last Wednesday to place eighth in the MW standings at 7-11 in league play and 14-17 overall. The Cowboys trailed by two with 10 minutes left in the game after a three from the Spartans, but two Pokes combined for 21 of Wyoming's last 23 points to pull in front by four with 13 seconds remaining. The Spartans would make one last run to cut the lead to one, but their desperation three at the buzzer fell just short. The Cowboys connected on 53 percent (24-of-45) from the field for the game, their eighth game over 50 percent this season, but just 32 percent (7-of-22) from deep. UW's seven threes were its second fewest this season and fewest since six against San Diego State on Dec. 30. Wyoming's 26 made free throws and 38 attempts were its second most in both categories this season. The Pokes had 10 turnovers against the Spartans, their seventh game with 10 or fewer in the last 13 contests, while the 24 lead changes and 15 ties were both season highs for the Cowboys. On the season, Wyoming averages 70.8 points on 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep. The Cowboys rank first in the conference and 44th nationally beyond the arc, while their 10.1 triples per game are first in the MW and ninth in the NCAA. The Pokes turn the ball over just 11.3 times per game, good for second in the MW and 46th in the NCAA. Defensively, Wyoming allows 71.7 points on 43 and 35 percent, respectively.

First-year head coach Tim Duryea and Utah State finished with an 86-85 home loss to Fresno State last Saturday to place ninth in the league standings at 7-11 and 15-14, respectively. The Aggies had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left, but missed a free throw and turned the ball over on the last possession of the game. Overall, Utah State scores 73.1 points per game on 45 percent from the field, good for third in the conference, and 37 percent from deep, second best in the MW. The Aggies make 8.3 triples per game for third in the conference and 75th in the NCAA. USU's 1.2 assist-turnover ratio is second in the league, while its 14.6 assists per game are third. The Aggies allow 71.6 points, fourth in the league, on 45 and 35 percent, respectively. USU's 17.2 fouls per game are first in the MW and 38th in the NCAA.

Each Team's Leaders
Josh Adams was voted MW Player of the Year by the league's media on Sunday after capping a prolific regular season with 28 points and six assists against San Jose State last Wednesday. The point total gave him 722 this season and Wyoming's single-season record, as he passed Flynn Robinson's 701 in 1964-65. The senior guard's 24.9 points per game this season lead the MW and rank third in the nation, while his 3.2 triples per game are first and 15th, respectively. He ranks in the top 10 of 11 MW statistical categories, including second in assists per game at 4.2, fifth in steals at 1.5 and fifth in field-goal percentage at 45. Junior guard Jason McManamen is Wyoming's other hot shooter beyond the arc. He had 16 points and three triples against the Spartans. His team-high 45 percent from three paces the MW and is 10th in the NCAA, while his 3.0 triples per game are second and 25th, respectively. McManamen contributes 14.1 points per game for 10th in the league and has averaged 4.3 threes made over the last nine games. Sophomore forward Alan Herndon and freshman forward Jordan Naughton added 11 points apiece, as Wyoming moved to 7-1 this season when four Pokes score in double figures. Herndon is third on the team at 7.6 points per game and second at 4.6 rebounds. Sophomore guards Jeremy Lieberman and Alexander Aka Gorski were UW's other starters against SJSU.

Senior guard Chris Smith and junior wing Jalen Moore pace the Aggies at 15.2 and 15.1 points per game, respectively, for eighth and ninth in the MW. Smith's 50 percent from the field is second in the conference, while Moore is sixth at 44 percent and 14th in rebounds at 5.8 per game. Moore had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Bulldogs for his second-straight 20-point effort, while Smith added 18, five and three. Junior guard Shane Rector is Utah State's top assist man at 3.2 per game for ninth in the MW. His 1.2 steals per game are 10th. Moore, Smith and senior guard Darius Perkins are the only Aggies to have started all 29 games, as the other two starting spots have rotated between seven Utah State players.

About the Series
The Cowboys lead the Aggies in the all-time series, 48-25, including 3-1 on neutral sites. The last meeting between the two on a neutral court was a 67-65 Wyoming win in the 4-5 game of last year's MW tournament. The last meeting between the two this season was an 84-65 Wyoming win on Feb. 6. The Pokes made a school-record 20 threes in that game to turn a one-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage midway through the second half. McManamen had a game-high 20 points and six triples, while Adams chipped in 19 points and seven assists.

Up Next
Should the Cowboys advance, they would face San Diego State in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT.