Pokes Battle Bison in CBI First Round on Wednesday

March 12, 2012

Laramie, Wyo.

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The University of Wyoming men's basketball team makes their second appearance in the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen in the last four years when the Cowboys host North Dakota State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Arena-Auditorium. UW (20-11, 6-8) also played in the CBI in 2009 and is making its 24th all-time appearance in postseason play. The Bison (17-13, 9-9) tied for fourth in the Summit League standings this season and earned their first postseason berth since playing in the 2009 NCAA tournament.

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, but will not be televised.

A Look at the Matchup
The Pokes are coming off two hard-fought losses on the homecourt of nationally-ranked UNLV to sit at 20-11 overall. UW ended the regular season with a 74-63 loss at the No. 17 Rebels on March 3 and followed with a 56-48 defeat by No. 20 UNLV in the quarterfinals of the MW Championships last Thursday in Las Vegas. The Cowboys were within two possessions (six points) of the Rebels late in the second half of both contests, but couldn't pull the upset. Wyoming returns home to the Arena-Auditorium, where the Pokes are an impressive 15-3 this season and play some of their best defense. The Cowboys continue to keep opponents off the scoreboard, holding 30 of their 31 opponents below their season scoring average. The Pokes were sixth in scoring defense (55.5 ppg) in the latest NCAA rankings and 24th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.4). Both marks rank in the top three of the Mountain West. Offensively, UW is 32nd in the NCAA in free throw percentage (74.4), 27th in turnover margin (+3.0) and 32nd in turnovers per game (11.6). UW's bench has averaged 17.2 points over the last five games.

Head coach Saul Phillips and North Dakota State enter the week at 17-13 overall, including a 9-9 record in Summit League play. The Bison finished the conference regular season tied for fourth with Western Illinois and dropped a 58-53 contest to it in the four-five matchup of the Summit League Championship on March 4 in their latest action. NDSU led by one at halftime and held the advantage throughout the second half, until Western Illinois used a four-point play with 39 seconds left to take the lead and momentum for the win. The Bison own one of the best offenses in the Summit League, as they lead the league and rank sixth in the NCAA in field goal percentage at 48.9. NDSU is also third in three-point field goal percentage and 44th in the nation at 37.4. The Bison are third in the Summit in scoring offense (73.1 ppg) and scoring margin (+5.0). Defensively, North Dakota State allows 68.0 points per game for fifth in the conference, while ranking second in field goal percentage defense at 43.1. NDSU is second in the Summit in blocks at 3.6 per game.

Each Team's Leaders
Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington continues to play well for the Pokes, with double-doubles in three of the last four contests. The Second Team All-MW honoree ranks in the top 10 of five conference statistical categories to average a team-high 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Francisco Cruz and redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez are Wyoming's outside threat at 12.2 points each. Cruz ranks third in the MW at 45.9 percent from the floor, while Martinez leads the league and ranks 47th in the nation at 2.6 threes per game. Cruz averages 2.3 assists and Martinez adds 3.8 rebounds. Senior guard JayDee Luster leads the Pokes on both ends of the floor. He was named the MW Defensive Player of the Year and ranks 35th in the nation in assist-turnover ratio at 2.3. Senior center Adam Waddell also excels on the defensive end, drawing 18 charges during MW play, to go with 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds. Washington and Martinez both scored 11 against UNLV.

NDSU is paced by sophomore guard Taylor Braun, who was a First Team All-Summit League selection at 15.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He ranks 10th in the conference in scoring and sixth in rebounding. Freshman guard Lawrence Alexander was named the league's Newcomer of the Year after finishing fourth in the conference at 4.6 assists and adding 12.9 points. Sophomore forward Marshall Bjorklund is NDSU's inside presence at 11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds and leads the Summit at 66.5 percent from the field. He is supplemented by fellow sophomore forward TrayVonn Wright at 7.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. Wright is third in the Summit at 1.2 blocks. Sophomore guard Mike Felt ranks 10th in the NCAA at 43.8 percent beyond the arc to go with 9.6 points and 1.5 rebounds. Wright paced NDSU with 14 points against Western Illinois and Alexander and Braun both added 11.

About the Series
The Cowboys lead the all-time series with the Bison 2-0, but both meetings occurred in the early 1960s in UW's War Memorial Fieldhouse. Wyoming earned a 94-77 win on Dec. 8, 1962 and also a 97-63 victory on Dec. 20, 1965.

Up Next
A victory on Wednesday would give Wyoming the winner of Washington State or San Francisco on Monday, March 19. Time and location will be announced at a later date.