LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Fans of University of Wyoming Athletics have a chance for a unique experience on Saturday, as the Cowboy basketball team will raise a Mountain West championship banner prior to its exhibition game with Fort Lewis. The Pokes won the conference tournament last March for Wyoming’s first MW tournament title in any sport. This MW banner will join the Cowboys’ two others in the rafters of the Arena-Auditorium after regular-season titles in 2000-01 and 2001-02. After the festivities and the 7 p.m. MT tip, the Pokes will seek a 25th-consecutive exhibition victory to add to a 45-6 overall exhibition record.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or online at GoWYO.com. 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 be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network.
A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt guided Wyoming to a historic 2014-15 season at 25-10 overall and 11-7 in the conference. That record included the program’s most wins in 27 years, a Mountain West tournament title and a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. Continuing that success to 2015-16 will be a challenge Shyatt faces with a new cast, though. The Cowboys welcome back just seven letterwinners and one starter from last year. Twelve of this season’s 15 Cowboys will be freshmen or sophomores and eight players will don the brown and gold for the first time. With 80 percent of the roster being underclassmen Wyoming ties for the fifth-youngest roster in the nation in 2015-16. The Cowboys return just 36 percent of their points from 2014-15, 37 percent of their rebounds, 39 percent of their assists and 42 percent of their steals. Wyoming was picked to finish eighth in the MW preseason media poll.
Fort Lewis went 20-9 overall and 15-7 in league play in 2014-15 for fifth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. First-year head coach Bob Pietrack welcomes back four starters and nine letterwinners from that squad, as the Skyhawks were picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason coaches poll. Saturday will be FLC’s first game of the season as well.
Each Team’s Leaders
Senior guard Josh Adams is Wyoming’s lone starter back from last season. What a season 2014-15 was for him, though. After earning All-Mountain West Third Team during the regular season, Adams caught fire in the MW tournament to lead the Pokes to three-straight wins and the big dance while earning tournament MVP. He averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists per game for the season and is preseason All-MW this fall. Several of last year’s role players will look to step into starting roles alongside Adams. Junior guard Jason McManamen appeared in all 35 games in 2014-15, adding 3.7 points per contest and several big plays at key times. Sophomore forward Alan Herndon made two starts last season to go with 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds. Sophomore guards Alexander Aka Gorski and Jeremy Lieberman both appeared in more than 20 games last year, while redshirt sophomore guard Trey Washington III sat out last year, but came off the bench for 29 games in 2013-14. A group of eight Cowboys will be in their first season with the program, including six freshmen and a sophomore and junior from the junior college ranks. Freshman Justin James and junior Morris Marshall may see time at the guard positions. Both put up impressive offensive numbers in Florida last year. Freshmen Andrew Moemeka and Jordan Naughton and sophomore Hayden Dalton are forwards that could be put into action this season after Wyoming graduated several big men last spring.
Senior guard Cade Kloster is Fort Lewis’ top returner after averaging 12.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2014-15. Sophomore guard Rasmus Bach added 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists, while senior guard Jared Smith contributed 7.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists. The trio started all 29 of FLC’s games in 2014-15 and Kloster and Bach were named to the RMAC’s preseason team this fall. Redshirt senior guard Kofi Josephs started the first six games of the season at 10.8 points per contest, before suffering a season-ending injury. In his place, junior guard Will Morse made 17 starts at 7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and a team-high 2.8 assists, while senior forward Austin Haldorson, a former Cowboy from 2012-14, made 10 starts at 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
About the Series
Wyoming’s last meeting with Fort Lewis was an 82-61 exhibition win on Halloween night 2012 in Ethete, Wyo. Larry Nance Jr. scored a game-high 21 points and the Cowboys used a 17-0 run early in the second half to down the Skyhawks at Wyoming Indian High School. The Pokes lead by just five at halftime, but outscored FLC by 16 points in the second half. Josh Adams added 12 points, Luke Martinez and Jason McManamen each had 11 and Derek Cooke Jr. contributed 10 and nine rebounds.
The Pokes open the regular season by hosting Bristol on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. Due to new NCAA rules, the game will be counted in Wyoming’s win/loss total, but no individual or team stats will be kept afterward.