March 11, 2014
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team begins postseason play on Thursday at the 2014 Reese's Mountain West Championships with a tall task. The Cowboys (18-13, 9-9 MW) earned a fifth seed for the tournament with a win over Colorado State on Saturday, but now face fourth-seeded UNLV (19-12, 10-8 MW) in its home building. The Pokes haven't beat the Rebels in the Thomas & Mack Center since 2003, losing the last 12 meetings in the building, including a 56-48 MW tournament quarterfinal game in 2012. Thursday's tip is set for 3:30 p.m. MT.
Fans can follow live stats, audio and video of the game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on GoWYO.com. The contest will also be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised by CBS Sports Network. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming finished the regular season tied for fifth in the Mountain West standings at 9-9 in the conference and 18-13 overall following an 83-75 victory over Colorado State on Saturday. The fifth-place finish was the highest for the Cowboys since 2002-03, while their nine conference wins were their most since 2001-02. Wyoming quickly built an 18-point lead early in the second half, but the Rams came roaring back with a 16-3 run that included four threes. CSU couldn't quite managed a lead, though, as it kept UW's advantage around two possessions most of the second half. The Rams clawed within two points twice with six minutes remaining, but a three-point play started a 10-2 Cowboy spurt that put the Pokes back in control at 74-64 with three minutes left. Free throw downs the stretch put the exclamation point on the Border War victory. For the season, Wyoming's 48 percent from the field leads the Mountain West and ranks 27th in the nation, while its 36 percent from deep is fourth and 65.2 points per game are 10th. UW's 72 percent at the free throw line is eighth. Defensively, the Cowboys rank second in the MW and 16th in the NCAA in scoring defense at 61.5 points per game and fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense at 41 percent. UW's 32 percent three-point defense is fourth in the conference and 46th in the nation.
Head coach Dave Rice and UNLV tied for third in the final MW standings at 10-8 in conference play and 19-12 overall, but lost a tiebreaker with Nevada to fall to fourth for the tournament. Most recently, the Rebels lost a 76-72 game at Nevada on Saturday. UNLV grabbed a 17-point lead, 54-37, with 16:13 left in the game, but the Wolf Pack went on a 19-3 run to pull within one at 57-56 with just over 10 minutes remaining. The two battled from there until a Nevada jumper with 33 seconds left proved to be the game winner. The Rebels played without the services of two of their starters, though. On the season, UNLV's offense averages 72.0 points for sixth in the MW. The Rebels' 44 percent from the field is seventh and 33 percent from deep is 11th. Defensively, UNLV allows 65.7 points for third in the conference, while opponents shoot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent beyond the arc against the Rebels. Those marks both rank second in the MW. UNLV's three-point percentage defense ranks 15th in the NCAA, while its 6.6 blocks are first in the MW and fourth in the nation.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior guard Nathan Sobey had a Senior Day to remember with a career-high 33 points against Colorado State on Saturday. He connected on 11 field goals and four threes. He averages 9.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, but has scored in double figures in five of the last six games. Not to be outdone, sophomore guard Josh Adams posted his third-straight 20-point game with 22 against the Rams. He has averaged over 23 points in the last three contests, as his 12.7 points and 2.9 assists per game lead Wyoming. Junior guard Riley Grabau is having one of the best shooting years in Cowboy history. His 44 percent beyond the arc would rank seventh in UW single-season history if the season ended today, while his 89 percent at the free throw would be first. He leads the MW and is 12th in the NCAA at the charity stripe. Junior forward Derek Cooke Jr.'s team-high 5.8 rebounds rank 17th in the MW, as he adds 6.1 points per game as well. Redshirt senior guard Jerron Granberry has stepped into a starting role after junior forward Larry Nance Jr.'s injury and averages 5.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest.
Junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones' 13.4 points and 3.0 assists per game pace UNLV, while his 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is seventh in the MW. Junior forwards Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith are two of the top big men in the conference, as both average double-doubles. Birch notches 11.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while Smith adds 11.0 points and 11.0 boards. Smith is first in the MW and fourth in the nation in rebounds. Birch is first in the league and second in the NCAA in blocks at 3.8 per game. Senior guard Kevin Olekaibe, a transfer from Fresno State, contributes 10.6 points per game, thanks in part to 2.3 treys per game for third in the MW. Junior guard Deville Smith rounds out UNLV's probable starters at 9.3 points and 2.8 assists. Dejean-Jones and Roscoe Smith did not play in UNLV's game at Nevada on Saturday.
About the Series
UNLV leads the all-time series with Wyoming, 33-15, including a 22-3 advantage in Las Vegas. The Cowboys are 1-9 in their last 10 meetings with the Rebels, and have not beat them in the Thomas & Mack since 2003. UNLV is 3-0 all-time against UW in the MW Championships. In the last meeting between the two, the Rebels earned a 48-46 home win over the Pokes on Feb. 8.
A win on Thursday would advance Wyoming to Friday's semifinal at 7 p.m. MT, where it would face San Diego State, Utah State or Colorado State.