Dec. 19, 2011
Laramie, Wyo. -
After taking advantage of a home-friendly start to 2011-12, the University of Wyoming men's basketball will start its longest road trip of the season with a Front Range matchup against Denver on Monday. The meeting pits strength against strength, as the Cowboys (11-1) sport one of the nation's best defenses and the Pioneers (8-2) rank as one of the NCAA's best offenses. Tip is set for 6 p.m. at Magness Arena.
Fans can follow live stats and live audio of the game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on WyomingAthletics.com. The contest will be broadcast on the radio through the Cowboy Sports Network and televised on ROOT Sports.
A Look at the Matchup
The Cowboys continue to sit atop the Mountain West standings with an 11-1 overall record and nine-game winning streak. Wyoming is 1-1 on the road this season and broke a 23-game road losing streak with a 65-54 win at Colorado on Dec. 9. Most recently, the Cowboys battled a tough Sioux Falls squad to a 62-54 win last Friday in the Arena-Auditorium. The victory moved UW to 10-0 at home, but was its first win of the season by less than 10 points. Larry Shyatt also earned his 100th career victory as a head coach.
The Cowboys' defense continues to be the catalyst for its wins and one of the best in the nation. Wyoming enters the game ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense at 50.1 points per game, fifth in three-point field goal percentage defense at 24.4 and 10th in field goal percentage defense at 36.0. All three marks lead the Mountain West. Wyoming held Sioux Falls to 36.2 percent (17-of-47) from the floor, the seventh consecutive game UW's opponent has shot under 40 percent. The Cowboys dished out 12 assists and turned the ball over a season-low five times for the fifth time this season UW has recorded a positive assist-turnover margin. Wyoming also committed a season-low 12 fouls versus the Cougars.
At 8-2, Denver is off to its best start since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. The Pioneers return nine players, including four starters, from last year's squad that finished third in the Sun Belt Conference West Division with a 13-17 overall record. DU is 5-1 at home this season to improve to 52-12 (.813) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott, but has picked up impressive road wins at California, Utah State and Northern Colorado, as well. The Pioneers currently have a two-game winning streak, including a 79-62 win over Boise State at home last Saturday.
One of the top offenses in the nation, the Pioneers enter the game second in the NCAA in free throw percentage (.820), 16th in field goal percentage (.495) and 19th in three-point field goal percentage (.408). Denver has shown its a smart, veteran squad that will work the ball around to find the best possible shot. With that hot shooting, DU is averaging just 67.9 points per game, but is 30th in the NCAA at 16.1 assists per contest. Against the Broncos, Denver earned 17 assists on 28 baskets. DU has a plus 1.7 turnover margin, but averages just 24.9 rebounds per game.
Each Team's Leaders
Redshirt junior Luke Martinez continues to pace the Cowboys at 12.8 points and 1.5 steals per game. The sharp-shooting guard is hitting 42 percent (30-of-71) of his three-point attempts for fifth in the MW and ranks second in the conference at 2.7 treys per game. Fellow redshirt junior Leonard Washington ranks in the top 10 of the MW in four different categories from his forward position. He leads the league in field goal percentage (58.8) and blocks per game (1.0), while scoring 11.0 points and grabbing a team-high 6.0 rebounds. Senior guard Francisco Cruz is scoring 12.3 points and grabbing 3.3 rebounds per game, while senior center Adam Waddell rounds out UW's double-figure scorers at 10.1 points per contest. Senior guard JayDee Luster continues to be one of the top ball handlers in the nation with an assist-turnover ratio of 4.0. Cruz posted 14 points versus Sioux Falls, Luster had 13 and Martinez added 11.
Senior guard Brian Stafford paces the Pioneers at 15.2 points per game and recently moved into DU's all-time top-10 scoring list. He is hitting 51 percent (26-of-51) beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Chris Udofia is DU's inside presence with 14.0 points to go with a team-high 3.1 blocks and 3.2 assists per game. Redshirt senior Rob Lewis, who missed last season due to injury, is contributing 9.4 points and 1.9 assist per game, while Preseason All-Conference pick junior guard Chase Hallam adds 6.5 and 1.7, respectively. Freshman guard Brett Olson rounds out DU's probable starters at 6.0 points and 2.2 rebounds. DU has eight players averaging at least 1.0 assist per game.
About the Series
The Pokes and Pioneers will meet on the hardwood for the 148th time on Monday, with Wyoming leading the all-time series 100-47. The series has been much closer in the last 10 meetings, though, as the Cowboys hold a slight 6-4 advantage. The home team has won the last nine meetings, with UW's last win in Denver coming 71-68 on Nov. 26, 2001.
Wyoming is in the midst of its longest road trip of the 2011-12 season. The Cowboys square off with Idaho State on Thursday at 7:05 p.m., before starting the New Year at Utah Valley on Jan. 3 at 7:05 p.m.