Nov. 2, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team competes in the Arena-Auditorium for the first time in eight months, when the Cowboys host the College of Wooster for an exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game will have special meaning for several Pokes. Wooster is the alma mater of UW head coach Larry Shyatt and associate head coach Scott Duncan, as both played on the basketball team as Fighting Scots. Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. grew up in Akron, Ohio, just a short drive from Wooster. The Cowboys are 43-6 (.877) in exhibition contests and currently enjoy a 22-game winning streak.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at GoWYO.com. Fans can also follow live stats and live audio of Wyoming's games through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on the website. The contest will be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network.
A Look at the Matchup
The Pokes crafted a resurgent year in 2011-12 with a 21-12 overall record and berth in the postseason CBI tournament for 11 more wins than the previous season. Wyoming went 6-8 in Mountain West play, including a 68-66 upset of No. 11 UNLV in early February in the Arena-Auditorium, as three players earned All-MW honors after the season. Head coach Larry Shyatt returns just two starters and six letterwinners from that squad, though, and faces a conference slate that is loaded with programs on the upswing. The Cowboys played many grind-it-out games last season, relying on a methodical offense and stingy defense. Wyoming finished sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 56.2 points per game, and was the last team in the nation to allow an opponent more than 60 points. Offensively, UW ranked in the top 40 in the nation in free throw percentage (73.9) and turnover margin (+2.5). Wyoming returns 50.3 percent of its points scored last season, 62.3 percent of its rebounds and 61.3 percent of its steals. Two of Wyoming's top three scorers from last season are back, including its top two rebounders and top two in steals. UW earned an 82-61 exhibition win over NCAA Division II Fort Lewis on Wednesday in its first contest of the 2012-13 season.
Longtime head coach Steve Moore has kept the College of Wooster a powerhouse at the NCAA Division III level. He has compiled an overall record of 595-134 in 25 years at Wooster, and returns to the sidelines this season as the winningest all-time coach in DIII history based on winning percentage (682-199, .774). The Fighting Scots have competed in the NCAA tournament for 10 consecutive years, including finishing runner-up in 2011 with a 31-3 record and advancing to the sectional semifinals last season by going 26-5. Wooster won 14 of its last 16 games en route to winning the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament and finished second in the regular season with a 12-4 mark. The Fighting Scots return two starters and eight letterwinners this season and are favored to win the conference again in the NCAC preseason coaches poll. Wooster had an impressive scoring margin of plus 12.0 last season, after averaging 75.0 points on the offensive end and allowing just 63.0. The Fighting Scots also shot better than Wyoming from the field (47.5) and beyond the arc (39.8) last season, while earning better marks on the defensive end as well. Wooster's opponents connected on just 28.6 percent of their threes last year.
Each Team's Leaders
Wyoming will rely heavily on the senior trio of Leonard Washington, Luke Martinez and Derrious Gilmore this season. UW's two returning starters, Washington and Martinez formed quite a dynamic duo last season. Washington was one of the top big men in the conference, ranking in the top 10 of six different MW statistical categories, while Martinez hit 81 threes during the season, including one in 29 consecutive games. Gilmore steps into the starting role at point guard after serving in a backup capacity behind JayDee Luster last season. Gilmore averaged 3.1 points and 1.0 assist in 24 games a year ago. Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. was UW's sixth man last year and could be a starter now at the four position, while the two spot could go to fellow sophomore guard Riley Grabau, who saw extensive time last season as well. Nance scored 21 points on Wednesday to lead five Pokes in double figures.
The Scots look to returning starters Xavier Brown and Josh Claytor for leadership this season. Brown was the NCAC Newcomer of the Year as a freshman last season after averaging 12.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. He made and attempted the most shots and free throws on the team last year in 30 starts. Claytor is a senior forward/center and connected on a team-high 61.5 percent from the field, while earning 5.3 rebounds per game and 1.1 steals. Senior center Jake Mays also returns to solidify Wooster's inside presence. Mays earned 4.4 rebounds per game to go with a team-high 25 blocks. Junior guard Doug Thorpe could step into a leadership role after adding 6.3 points in a backup role last season.
About the Series
Saturday's meeting of the Cowboys and Fighting Scots will be the first between the two programs.
Wyoming opens the regular season by hosting Western State at 8 p.m. next Saturday in the Arena-Auditorium.