LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team begins the 2015 Mountain West Championships in Las Vegas with a rubber match for Thursday's quarterfinals. The fourth-seeded Cowboys (22-9, 11-7 MW) lost a 56-44 road contest to fifth-seeded Utah State (18-12, 11-7 MW) on Jan. 27, but claimed a 76-53 victory in Laramie on Senior Night last Wednesday. The Pokes are 6-6 all-time in MW quarterfinals. Tip is set for 3:30 p.m. MT at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The contest will be televised by CBS Sports Network (Charter: 634, DirecTV: 221) and broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network. Fans can follow live stats and audio of the game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on GoWYO.com. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.
A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming concluded the regular season with a 52-49 overtime loss at New Mexico on Saturday to earn fourth in the MW standings at 11-7 in league play and 22-9 overall. As had been the case in their previous three meetings, it took an extra period to decide a winner between the Pokes and Lobos. The two squads went to overtime tied at 44-44, but the Lobos reeled off a 6-0 run to go up 50-44 with 38 seconds left. The Cowboys made a late charge to cut the lead to one with 15 seconds remaining, but a jumper to win it with two seconds left came up short. The Pokes shot a season-low 32 percent (15-of-47) from the field and 31 percent (5-of-16) beyond the arc compared to 36 percent (20-of-55) and 13 percent (2-of-15) from deep for the Lobos. UNM earned a 38-32 advantage on the boards and 13-10 in assists, as both squads committed 11 turnovers and 18 fouls. On the season, Wyoming averages 61.7 points per game on 46 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys are second in the MW and 53rd nationally in field-goal percentage. Defensively, the Pokes allow 55.8 points per game on 40 and 34 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is second in the MW and eighth in the NCAA, while its 13.7 fouls per game are first in the conference and second in the nation.
Head coach Stew Morrill and Utah State closed the regular season with a 75-70 home loss to Colorado State on Saturday to place fifth in the league standings at 18-12 overall and 11-7 in MW play. The Aggies led for most of the second half, but faltered over the final minutes as the Rams finished the half on a 7-3 run, including four straight from the free-throw line with less than 12 seconds remaining. Utah State shot 40 percent (23-of-58) from the floor, the lowest total in its last 10 games, 33 percent (9-of-27) from behind the three-point line and 79 percent (15-of-19) from the free throw line. The Aggies average 66.6 points per game for fourth in the MW, while their 45 percent from the field is fourth and 39 percent beyond the arc is second and 18th in the NCAA. Defensively, Utah State allows 63.5 points for fifth in the conference. The Aggies rank fourth in the MW allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent from the field and first in three-point defense at 30 percent, which ranks 13th in the nation. USU's 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the MW and 20th in the NCAA.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. notched his second-straight 20-point effort with 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks at New Mexico. He leads Wyoming at 16.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while his 53 percent from the field ranks 54th in the NCAA. Junior guard Josh Adams scored just four points against the Lobos, but has more than 20 in three of Wyoming's last three contests. He averages 12.5 points, while his 3.6 assists are third in the league and his 1.4 steals are eighth. Senior guard Riley Grabau hit three triples against New Mexico and is now one away from fourth in school history. He contributes 9.0 points and 2.2 assists per game. Senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. has reached double figures in six of the last nine contests, as 62 of his 107 made baskets this season have been dunks. He adds 8.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 73 percent from the field. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. rounds out Wyoming's probable starters at 6.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Sophomore guard Jalen Moore's 15.1 points and 6.7 rebounds pace Utah State. He ranks sixth in the conference in points and seventh in boards, as he finished with 14 points and nine rebounds against Colorado State. Redshirt freshman forward David Collette is ninth in the MW at 12.9 points, while his 59 percent from the field is first in the conference and 15th in the NCAA. He adds 5.0 rebounds and a team-high 1.9 blocks. He notched 10 points versus the Rams. Junior guard Chris Smith is USU's other scorer in double figures at 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists, after a team-high 24 points against Colorado State. He paces the MW at 48 percent beyond the arc. Junior guard Darius Perkins contributes 9.5 points and 3.2 assists, as he is sixth in the league in assists and third at 42 percent from deep. Freshman guard Julion Pearre rounds out USU's probable starters at 6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Utah State's roster this season features just two seniors.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 46-25 advantage in the all-time series with Utah State, including 2-1 on neutral sites. The last meeting between the two on a neutral court was a 73-72 Aggie victory on Dec. 21, 1996, in Salt Lake City. The last meeting between the two this season was a 76-53 Cowboy victory last Wednesday in Laramie. The 23-point win was UW's largest margin of victory in a MW game since 2002. The Pokes led by double digits seven minutes into the game, by 10 at halftime and as many as 25 late in the second half. Nance had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Should the Cowboys advance, they would face the winner of Boise State and Wednesday's first-round game between New Mexico and Air Force in the semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. MT.