Pokes Tussle With UC Irvine on Tuesday Night

Dec. 12, 2011

Laramie, Wyo. -

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Fresh off its first road win since 2009, the University of Wyoming men's basketball team is right back to work with a Tuesday showdown against UC Irvine at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys own a Mountain West-best 9-1 record, including 8-0 at home, but face a young Anteater (2-6) squad that has hung tough in several losses this season and defeated Wyoming soundly last year in California.

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 and televised on The Mtn.

A Look at the Matchup
The Pokes enter the week with the best record in the Mountain West at 9-1, and currently own a seven-game winning streak. Wyoming is a perfect 8-0 in the Arena-Auditorium this season, but most recently earned a big win on the road. The Cowboys claimed a 65-54 win at Colorado last Friday to snap a 23-game losing streak on the road. UW's victory also broke a 27-game non-conference winning streak for CU at home.

Wyoming's success this season has been in large part due to a stingy defense. The Pokes currently lead the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense at 22.5, while also ranking third in scoring defense at 49.9 points per game and 10th in field goal percentage defense at 35.7. All three marks lead the Mountain West. Wyoming held CU to a season-low 54 points and has not allowed a team to score more than 60 points this season.

UC Irvine is off to a 2-6 start to its second season under head coach Russell Turner. The Anteaters return just two starters and four lettermen from a team that went 13-19 overall and 6-10 in the Big West last season. With seven freshmen and no seniors on the roster, UCI is one of just nine Division I programs without a senior this season.

The Anteaters were winless in six contests in November, but played several respectable programs close and had just one game at home. UCI has rebounded to win its last two contests, a 99-79 victory over San Diego and a 75-73 win against Vanguard last Saturday, with both games at home. UCI shot 35.4 percent from field through its first six games, but has connected on 53.5 in its last two contests. The Anteaters are averaging 40.0 rebounds per game, but still have a minus -0.2 rebounding margin and a minus 1.9 turnover margin.

Each Team's Leaders
The Cowboys have a new scoring leader in redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez at 13.0 points per game. He is connecting on 46 percent (27-of-58) of his three-point attempts for fourth in the MW and leads the conference at 3.0 treys per game. Fellow redshirt junior Leonard Washington ranks in the MW top 10 in five different categories from his forward position. He leads the league in field goal percentage (60.0) and blocks per game (1.3), while scoring 11.8 points and grabbing 6.1 rebounds. Senior center Adam Waddell is scoring 10.8 points per game, including a season-high 17 versus Colorado, to go with nine blocks, while senior guard Francisco Cruz contributes 12.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Senior guard JayDee Luster continues to lead the nation in assist-turnover ratio at 4.7. Washington posted 16 points and seven rebounds versus the Buffs, and Martinez added 14 points.

Junior guard Daman Starring is one of two Anteaters in double figures. He averages 13.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game to go with a team-high nine steals, while junior forward Michael Wilder contributes 11.3 points thanks to a team-high 21 treys. Sophomore guard Chris McNealy adds 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game to go with 3.0 assists. Freshman guard Aaron Wright has a team-high 3.1 assists per game, while scoring 7.5 points. Redshirt junior center Adam Folker rounds out UCI's probable starters at 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. Freshman forward Will Davis II has been a big boost off UCI's bench with 9.6 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game. Davis had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds versus Vanguard, while Wilder and Starring both added 16 points.

About the Series
Tuesday's matchup will be the second all-time meeting on the hardwood between the Pokes and Anteaters. UC Irvine earned an 83-68 win last season in California, during which four Cowboys scored in double figures and Djibril Thiam recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Up Next
The Cowboys continue a home-friendly start to the 2011-12 season by hosting Sioux Falls on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.