Nov. 29, 2011
Laramie, Wyo. -
Riding a four-game winning streak, the University of Wyoming men's basketball team looks to continue that momentum against Utah Valley on Wednesday. The Cowboys (6-1) are coming off a dominant effort on both sides of the ball in last weekend's Jim Thorpe Classic, while the Wolverines (4-3) have played some quality opponents tough on the road but are still looking for their first win away from home. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.
Tickets to all UW games can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at WyomingAthletics.com. Fans can also follow live stats and live audio of Wyoming's games, as well as live video of the postgame press conference, through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on the website. The contest will be broadcast on the radio through the Cowboy Sports Network.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming enters the week hitting on all cylinders after picking up four dominant wins last week. The Cowboys collected a 67-56 home win over South Dakota last Tuesday, before going 3-0 as host of the Jim Thorpe Classic over the weekend. UW started the event with a 65-51 win over Portland State, earned a 73-43 victory against Maryland Eastern Shore and capped the tournament with a 73-58 win versus Louisiana Tech. The Cowboys have played great defense all season, currently ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense at 50.7 points per game. The marks leads the Mountain West, as the Pokes also pace the conference in field goal percentage defense (35.9) and three-point field goal percentage defense (28.2).
It was the offense that caught fire last week, though. Four Cowboys reached double figures in one game for the first time this season against PSU, while UW hit a season-high 10 threes. The Pokes also hit 10 treys against Louisiana Tech, going 50 percent (11-of-22) behind the arc, and hit 20-of-21 free throws (95.2 percent). Wyoming currently ranks first in the MW in field goal percentage (47.6), second in free throw percentage (76.0) and third in scoring margin (+17.1).
Longtime head coach Dick Hunsaker returns four starters from a Utah Valley team that won the Great West Conference at 19-11 overall and 11-1 in league play last season. The Wolverines are off to 4-3 start to their 2011-12 campaign, with four wins at home and three losses on the road. Two of Utah Valley's three losses have been decided by eight points or less. In its last three contests UVU is 1-2 with close road losses at Arkansas, 67-59, on Nov. 22 and Oakland, 89-83, on Nov. 25, while picking up a 58-47 home win over Northern Illinois on Monday night. UVU is scoring 67.6 points per game on 41 percent from the field, while allowing 61.1 points on 37 percent. As a team, the Wolverines have a plus 5.4 rebounding and plus 0.4 turnover margin, while averaging 13.9 assists per contest.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior Francisco Cruz continues to pace the Cowboys at 13.9 points per game, but several other Wyoming guards have stepped up their play. Redshirt junior Luke Martinez was named the MVP of the Jim Thorpe Classic after posting 51 points during the tournament, including a career-high 20 against Louisiana Tech. He shot 61 percent (13-of-21) beyond the arc and 85 percent (6-of-7) from the free-throw line to up his season average to 13.0 points per game. Senior JayDee Luster spearheaded UW's offensive breakout last week. In the last four games he has 19 assists to just one turnover for a nation-leading 8.6 assist-turnover ratio. He ranks eighth in the MW at 3.7 assists per contest. Inside, redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington and senior center Adam Waddell continue to rank first and third in the league in blocked shots at 1.2 and 1.1 per game, respectively.
Senior guard Isiah Williams leads Utah Valley at 17.4 points per game and is one of four Wolverines averaging more than 2.0 assists per game. Sophomore guard Holton Hunsaker, the son of the head coach, contributes a team-high 2.7 assists to go with 6.1 points. Senior forward Geddes Robinson and sophomore center Ben Aird are Utah Valley's inside game. Robinson averages a double-double at 12.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, while Aird contributes 7.6 and 7.7, respectively, to go with 1.5 blocks per game. Senior forward Keith Thompson rounds out UVU's projected starters and adds 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Williams had 15 points and Robinson posted a double-double with 12 and 11 against Northern Illinois in their last contest.
About the Series
Wednesday's meeting will be the first between the Cowboys and Wolverines.
Wyoming hosts Bradley for the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.