LAS VEGAS -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team will square off with top-seeded and 25th-ranked Boise State in Friday's semifinals of the Mountain West Championships in Las Vegas. The fourth-seeded Cowboys (23-9, 11-7 MW) handed the Broncos (25-7, 14-4 MW) a 65-54 defeat in Laramie on Jan. 10 in the only meeting of the programs this season, but Boise State has gone 15-1 since that loss. The Pokes are playing in the MW tournament's semifinals for the first time since 2009 and are seeking their second title-game appearance in the league's history. Tip is set for 7 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 earned a 67-65 win over fifth-seeded Utah State in Thursday's quarterfinals to move to 23-9 on the season, the program's most wins since 1987-88. The Cowboys and Aggies exchanged the lead 16 times before a 51-51 with just over six minutes left. A triple sparked an 11-2 UW run that put Wyoming in front 62-53 with just under two minutes to go, though. Free throws down the stretch to keep Utah State at bay and an Aggie heave at the buzzer went over the backboard. Wyoming shot 48 percent (26-of-54) from the field, but just 29 percent (5-of-17) from deep and 67 percent (10-of-15) at the free-throw line. Both teams collected 31 rebounds and 13 assists, but the Pokes earned a 38-24 advantage in points in the paint and 11-5 in points off turnovers. Wyoming is 15-0 this season when outscoring opponents by double digits in the paint and 20-0 when scoring 60-or more points in a game. On the season, Wyoming averages 61.9 points per game on 47 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys are second in the MW and 51st nationally in field-goal percentage. Defensively, the Pokes allow 56.1 points per game on 40 and 35 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 Leon Rice and Boise State are 15-1 since a loss in Laramie on Jan. 10, including an 80-68 win over ninth-seeded Air Force in Thursday's quarterfinals. Up 32-28 at halftime, Boise State raced to a 45-30 lead after limiting the Falcons to one field goal over the first three minutes of the second half. Air Force hit two consecutive threes within 40 seconds to cut Boise State's lead to single digits, but the Broncos answered with a pair of threes to push the Broncos' lead to 53-41 with 13:25 left. BSU would add to that lead with a 13-6 run over the final five minutes to pull away. The Broncos shot 50 percent (25-of-50) from the field and 43 percent (12-of-28) from deep. Overall, Boise State's 70.9 points per game are second in the MW and are 89th in the NCAA. The Broncos shoot 46 percent from the field for third in the conference, while leading the league at 40 percent from deep and 73 percent at the charity stripe. Boise State's 8.8 threes per game are first in the MW and 18th nationally. Defensively, BSU allows 59.9 points per game, third in the MW, while opponents shoot 41 percent and 31 percent, respectively. The Broncos own a plus-2.4 rebounding margin, fifth in the conference and a plus-2.5 turnover margin, first in the league.
Each Team's Leaders
Junior guard Josh Adams was all over the court against Utah State. He finished with 19 points, six assists, four rebounds and a block, while his putback dunk was the No. 2 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 and one of his assists was No. 5. An All-MW Third Team honoree, he averages 12.8 points and his team-high 3.7 assists are third in the MW. Wyoming is paced by senior forward Larry Nance Jr., who had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists versus the Aggies. The MW's co-Defensive Player of the Year, Nance averages 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His 52 percent from the field ranks 54th in the nation. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. had a career-high 16 points in the USU game to go with five rebounds. He contributes 6.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. Senior guard Riley Grabau hit two triples against the Aggies to move into fourth in school history with 166. He adds 9.1 points and 2.2 assists per game. Senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. grabbed 10 boards versus USU for his sixth game with double-figure rebounds this season. He has dunks on 63 of his 110 made baskets this season to average 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Derrick Marks, the MW Player of the Year, paces the Broncos at 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Marks leads the MW and ranks 20th in the NCAA in scoring, while his 45 percent beyond the arc and 2.1 threes per game are third and fourth in the league. He had 13 points and five assists against Air Force. Redshirt sophomore forward James Webb III was named the conference's Newcomer of the Year and to the All-Defensive Team at 11.4 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game. He is third in the MW on the boards. Sophomore forward Nick Duncan's 2.4 treys per game are first in the league, as he averages 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. He had 23 points on seven threes versus the Falcons. Senior guard Igor Hadziomerovic adds 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds, while freshman guard Chandler Hutchison rounds out BSU's probable starters at 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 12-8 advantage in the all-time series with Boise State, but Friday will be the first meeting between the two on at a neutral site. The Cowboys earned a 65-54 home win over the Broncos in the only game between the programs this season. The loss dropped Boise State to 0-3 in the MW, as Nance had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Adams added 16 points.
A win in the semifinals would advance Wyoming to face the winner of Friday's other semifinal between No. 2 San Diego State and No. 3 Colorado State in Saturday's title game at 4 p.m. MT.