Nov. 6, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The 2013-14 season is officially set to begin for the University of Wyoming men's basketball team, as the Pokes host UT Martin on Friday at 7 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys finished the preseason with an 85-81 exhibition win over UC-Colorado Springs last Thursday at home and now look for their ninth season-opening victory in the last 10 years with a win over the Skyhawks.
The University of Wyoming Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Laramie Detachment #777 of the Marine Corps League will team up to collect Toys For Tots at the game. New unwrapped toys, checks or cash may be donated prior to the game at the Willett West and Willett East entrances to the Arena-Auditorium.
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 the website. The contest will also be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming played just one exhibition game this preseason, an 85-81 win over UC-Colorado Springs last Thursday in the Double A. The Pokes led by 26 at halftime and kept the advantage until midway through the second half, when Shyatt emptied the bench. The Mountain Lions were able to cut the lead to one possession with less than 10 seconds left, but UW held on for the win. The victory was Wyoming's 24th consecutive in exhibition play. UW shot 47 percent (22-of-47) from the field and 39 percent (7-of-18) beyond the arc, while converting on 79 percent (34-of-43) at the free throw line. The Cowboys earned a 39-17 advantage in bench points and 6-1 in blocks. The offensive showing was good news for the Pokes, who return three starters and 10 letterwinners from last season. Defense has led Wyoming to back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason berths, but a new offensive scheme will hopefully help the Cowboys score more points. Depth at the guard position should help that as well, as Wyoming welcomes two four-year transfers. The Cowboys were picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West preseason poll.
Head coach Jason James led UT Martin to a 9-21 overall record in 2012-13, his fourth season at the helm for the Skyhawks. UTM went 5-11 in the Ohio Valley Conference for fourth place in the West Division, but won two of its final four games, including a 69-68 win over perennial OVC power Murray State. Offensively, UT Martin ended the season ranked eighth in the conference in scoring offense at 66.9 points per game. The Skyhawks were last in the league in field goal percentage at 39 percent and 10th in three pointers at 33 percent. UTM was third in free throw percentage with 74 percent and second in offensive rebounds at 12.5 per game. On the defensive end, UTM allowed 76.5 points per game for last in the OVC, while ranking 10th in field goal and three-point defense at 46 and 35 percent, respectively. The Skyhawks return four starters and 11 letterwinners from that squad, including their top four scorers. Their 2013-14 roster features 10 juniors or seniors and just two freshmen. UTM did not play an exhibition game and was picked to finish fourth in the OVC West Division again this season.
Each Team's Leaders
Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. showed exponential growth in his first two seasons in Laramie and is a candidate for all-conference honors this year. He is UW's top returner after averaging 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds in 2012-13. He posted 14 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals against UCCS in a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and 6-of-6 at the free throw line. Fellow junior Riley Grabau is a returning starter as well, and could take over the point guard position after his 2.5 assists per game ranked second on the team last season. Sophomore guard Josh Adam's 6.6 points per game return as well, after he was thrust into the starting lineup midway through last season. Junior forward Derek Cooke Jr. and senior guard Nathan Sobey return after extended minutes off the bench in 2012-13 and could fill UW's two other starting spots this season. Five newcomers, including two four-year transfers, will add immediate depth for Wyoming this season. Redshirt junior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. sat out last season after transferring from Alabama, while redshirt senior guard Jerron Granberry has one year of eligibility after graduating from North Florida.
Junior forward Myles Taylor averaged team highs of 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds last season for UT Martin, as both marks ranked sixth in the OVC. He scored in double figures in 27 of his 29 games in 2012-13, including eight 20-point outings and six double-doubles to earn a spot on this year's All-OVC preseason team. Senior guard/forward Mike Liabo added 13.4 points per game and a team-high 74 three pointers, as his 2.5 treys per game ranked seventh in the conference. He also averaged a team-high 2.2 assists. Redshirt junior guard Terence Smith was UTM's other scorer in double figures at 10.6 points to go with 3.1 rebounds and a team-high 1.2 steals per game. Senior guard Justin Childs rounds out UTM's top four returning scorers, after averaging 8.4 points in 2012-13.
About the Series
Friday will be the first meeting between the Cowboys and Skyhawks.
The Pokes face a tough early-season test at Colorado next Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT. The Buffs are receiving votes in both preseason national polls.