LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team looks to rack up another victory before the start of finals week when the Cowboys host Montana State on Sunday at noon MT in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes (8-2) return to Laramie, where they sport an 8-0 record, after a defensive battle at Cal on Wednesday, while the Bobcats (3-5) start a three-game road trip before hosting Wyoming on Dec. 23 in Bozeman, Mont.
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 and televised by ROOT Sports. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.
A Look at the Matchup
Wyoming dropped its second road contest this season with a hard-fought 45-42 loss at Cal on Wednesday. The Cowboys held a 16-15 lead at halftime, but the Bears quickly took the lead in the second half and extended the advantage to as much as seven midway through the half. Cal held the Pokes at bay and was up by the same amount with five minutes to go, before a 7-2 run pulled Wyoming within 41-39 with just under three minutes left. The Cowboys would have several chances to tie the contest down the stretch, but missed shots and turnovers gave the Cowboys the loss. As a team, Wyoming had its worst shooting performance of the season, hitting just 32 percent (15-of-46) from the field and three-of-14 threes. The Cowboy defense held Cal to 35 percent (18-of-51) and just four treys, while outrebounding the Bears 33-32. The Pokes notched a season-low nine assists and committed 11 turnovers. On the season, Wyoming averages 63.7 points per game on 51 percent from the field and 35 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys rank first in the MW and 14th nationally in field-goal percentage, while their 16.7 assists per game are second in the conference and are 21st in the nation. Defensively, the Pokes allow 49.8 points per game on 39 and 34 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is third in the NCAA, while its 13.6 fouls per game are fourth.
Brian Fish is in his first season as head coach at Montana State and has the Bobcats off to a 3-5 start to 2014-15. MSU is 0-4 away from Bozeman this season, but road games have included contests at UCLA and Kentucky. Most recently, the Bobcats won a 68-60 home game over Utah Valley on Dec. 6. MSU went back-and-forth with the Wolverines, before a decisive 9-0 run with four minutes left put the Bobcats in front for good. While the victory gave the Bobcats three wins on the just-completed four-game homestand, it appeared in danger of slipping away early. Utah Valley took advantage of a cold-shooting Bobcat start, pushing an early lead to 21-13 midway through the first half. The Bobcats whittled away at the margin and took a 37-33 lead at halftime. MSU outrebounded Utah Valley, 36-26, but was outscored, 36-20, in the paint. Both teams committed 20 fouls. On the season, Montana averages 64.8 points per game on 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep, while allowing 73.2 points on 45 and 32 percent, respectively. The Bobcats are 33rd in the NCAA with 8.5 threes per game and their 68 treys this season are 50th nationally. MSU hits 77 percent of its free throws, good for 11th in the NCAA. The Bobcats own a minus-0.5 rebounding margin and minus-4.6 turnover margin.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. had another strong performance in Wyoming's loss at Cal on Wednesday, as the MW Preseason Player of the Year posted his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He added two assists and two steals. Nance paces the Pokes at 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 block and 1.7 steals per game, as he shoots 57 percent from the field for 56th in the nation. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. added eight points and a career-high eight rebounds against the Bears, as he averages 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists. His 49 percent beyond the arc this season is fifth in the MW, while his 1.8 treys per game are sixth. Junior guard Josh Adams contributes 9.3 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per contest, but is known as one of UW's top defenders with 1.2 steals per game. Senior guard Riley Grabau is an excellent shooter, hitting 94 percent of his free throws this season, to average 7.6 points and 2.0 assists, while senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. rounds out UW's probable starters at 7.0 points and 3.7 rebounds. Cooke is tied with Nance for the team lead in dunks with 22.
Senior guard Michael Dison paces the Bobcats at 14.8 points per game, thanks in part to 42 percent beyond the arc. Junior guard Marcus Colbert adds 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 5.7 assists per game. He ranks 23rd in the NCAA in assists and posted a game-high 20 points and six assists against Utah Valley. Sophomore guard Stephan Holm is MSU's other scorer in double figures at 11.0 points per game, but comes off the bench. Junior forward Danny Robison is one of three Bobcats to average four or more rebounds at 4.3 per game to go with 8.6 points, while fellow junior forward Terrell Brown and senior center Blake Brumwell round out MSU's probable starters. Brown contributes 5.4 points and 2.3 rebounds, while Brumwell adds 2.4 and 3.8, respectively. Dison, Colbert and Robison have started all eight contests for MSU this season, but five other Bobcats have started in the two other spots.
About the Series
Wyoming owns a 41-11 advantage in the all-time series, but just a 6-2 mark in Laramie as the vast majority of those meetings have been neutral-site contests. In the last game between the two, the Cowboys earned a 79-54 victory in Laramie on Nov. 30, 2013. The Pokes led by just five at halftime, but came out of the locker room with a 16-3 run and shot 81 percent (13-of-16) from the field in the second half. Riley Grabau notched 19 points to pace four Cowboys in double figures, as he went 5-of-5 beyond the arc and 4-of-4 at the free throw line.
The Pokes host their final home game of the 2014 calendar year when they welcome Southern to the Arena-Auditorium on Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. MT.