Nov. 24, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team draws its toughest challenge of the 2013-14 season to date with a trip to No. 8/8 Ohio State on Monday. The Cowboys (4-1) are coming off three dominant home wins, but the Buckeyes (4-0) returned four starters from an Elite Eight team a year ago and are ranked eighth in both national polls. Tip is set for 5 p.m. MT in Value City Arena in Columbus.
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 also be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised by the Big Ten Network (Charter: 638; DirecTV: 610). Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.
A Look at the Matchup
The Cowboys own a 4-1 record so far in 2013-14, with all four wins coming in the Arena-Auditorium. Their lone loss on the season was a 63-58 setback at Colorado on Nov. 13. Most recently, Wyoming earned a 70-53 victory over South Dakota at home last Friday. The Pokes were up 40-27 at halftime, but the Coyotes started the second half with three-straight buckets to pull within seven points three minutes in. South Dakota would hang around through the midpoint of the half, before Wyoming started the deciding run. The spurt put the Pokes up 20, 60-40, with five minutes left and UW cruised from there. Wyoming shot at least 50 percent from the field for the third-straight game with an even 50 percent (23-of-46) and added a season-high 53 percent (9-of-17) from beyond the arc. UW earned a 26-12 advantage in points in the paint and its bench scored 22 points for the fifth-straight game with at least 10. The Cowboy defense held USD to 31 percent (20-of-63) and 25 percent (6-of-24), respectively, for season lows for a UW opponent. Wyoming also didn't allow a fast-break point for the fourth time this season. The Cowboys average 72.8 points on 50 percent from the field and 42 percent beyond the arc, while holding opponents to 61 points on 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
After an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament a year ago, Ohio State has picked up right where it left off. Head coach Thad Matta and his four returning starters were ranked eighth in last Monday's Associated Press and coaches polls, as the Buckeyes have started the 2013-14 season with a 4-0 record. The Buckeyes opened with home wins over Morgan State on Nov. 9 and Ohio on Nov. 12, before notching an impressive 52-35 win at No. 17 Marquette on Nov. 16. Most recently, Ohio State earned a 63-52 home win over American last Wednesday. The Buckeyes took a small 28-23 lead into halftime and the Eagles hung around in the second half, as a three with just over three minutes left finally put OSU up by 16 and in control. American never led in the last 23 minutes, but never really went away. The Buckeyes struggled all night to make shots, finishing 20-of-56 (36 percent) from the field and 3-of-16 (18 percent) beyond the arc. OSU earned a small 35-32 advantage on the boards, but forced American into 27 turnovers. For the season, Ohio State is shooting 41 percent from the field and 28 percent from deep for 70.8 points per game, while holding opponents to 51.5 points on 34 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Ohio State was picked to finish third in the Big Ten's preseason poll, behind Michigan State and Michigan.
Each Team's Leaders
Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. continues to be solid for Wyoming, as he's scored in double figures in four of five games. He averages 11.8 points for second on the team, while leading the team at 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He notched six points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks against South Dakota. Junior guard Riley Grabau and Josh Adams also average in double-figure points at 15.6 and 11.2, respectively. Grabau is shooting 57 percent (20-of-35) from the field and 61 percent (14-of-23) from deep to go with 2.4 assists, while Adams contributes a team-high 2.8 assists and is one of seven Cowboys shooting over 50 percent from the field. Grabau paced Wyoming with a career-high 20 points against USD. He was complimented by junior forward Derek Cooke Jr., who posted his second career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cooke averages 6.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, while senior guard Nathan Sobey rounds out UW's probables at 8.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
Preseason All-American Aaron Craft is in the midst of his senior season for Ohio State after earning All-Big Ten Team and All-Defensive honors last year. The senior guard has averaged 10.5 points and a team-high 6.0 assists per game so far on the offensive end. Defensively, he's earned 13 steals to pace the squad. Junior guard Shannon Scott was also on the conference's defensive team, but paces the OSU offense this season at 12.5 points thanks to 54 percent from the field. Junior center Amir Williams leads the Buckeyes at 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, while adding 9.5 points. Senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. has a team-high seven threes this season, as he averages 9.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, while junior forward LaQuinton Ross contributes 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. Junior forward Sam Thompson adds 11.0 points off the bench for the third Buckeye to average in double-figure points.
About the Series
Wyoming and Ohio State will meet for the fourth time on the hardwood on Monday. The Pokes trail 1-2 in the all-time series, but earned a 73-67 win in their last meeting on Dec. 29, 1995, in Casper. Wyoming's previous meeting with the Buckeyes was a 73-63 loss on March 26, 1986, in the NIT title game in Madison Square Garden. The Cowboys first played Ohio State on Jan. 5, 1945, in a 42-36 loss for Wyoming at Columbus.
The Pokes return to the Arena-Auditorium to host Montana State at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.