Dec. 21, 2011
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team will look to start a new winning streak when the Cowboys play at Idaho State on Thursday in Pocatello, Idaho. Tip is set for 7:05 p.m. in Holt Arena. The Pokes (11-2) had their nine-game winning streak broken on Monday in Denver, and now seek to even their 2011-12 road record at 2-2 against the Bengals (2-8). Thursday's game will be UW's last of the 2011 calendar year, as the Cowboys will get an 11-day layoff for the holidays.
Fans can follow live stats, live audio and live video 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.
A Look at the Matchup
The Cowboys are currently second in the Mountain West standings at 11-2, trailing only No. 21/23 UNLV at 12-2, and enter Thursday in the midst of a three-game road stretch. The Pokes are 1-2 on the road this season, including breaking a 23-game road losing streak with a 65-54 win at Colorado on Dec. 9. In their most recent action, the Cowboys lost a 57-46 contest at Denver on Monday night. UW had the game tied at 32-32 with eight minutes to go, but timely threes from the Pioneers gave them the advantage down the stretch. Wyoming is one of two teams in the nation yet to allow an opponent more than 60 points during 2011-12, and has not lost back-to-back games this season.
Wyoming's defense continues to sit near the top of the NCAA rankings. UW entered the week ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense at 50.6 points per game, fifth in three-point field goal percentage defense at 26.3 and 10th in field goal percentage defense at 36.4. All three marks led the Mountain West at the time. The Cowboys have crafted a plus 4.5 turnover margin this season, but are minus 0.7 on the boards.
Idaho State will look for a fresh start on Thursday, after head coach Joe O'Brien stepped down on Monday. Assistant coach Deane Martin will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The Bengals are 2-8 so far in 2011-12, after returning two starters from a team that went 9-20 overall last season and 4-12 in the Big Sky Conference. ISU is currently on a three-game losing streak, but all three came away from Pocatello. The Bengals are 2-2 at home this season, including a 76-63 win over North Dakota in their last home contest. Most recently, Idaho State lost a 71-59 decision at Utah last Friday.
Each Team's Leaders
Two Cowboys are tied atop UW's scoring chart. Senior Francisco Cruz and redshirt junior Luke Martinez are both averaging 12.2 points per game. Martinez has hit a team-high 31 treys and is shooting 38 percent (31-of-80) beyond the arc, while Cruz is hitting 46 percent (59-of-127) from the floor and is second on the team at 1.5 assists per game. Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington is also contributing double figures at 11.5 points per game. He ranks in the top 10 of the MW in four different categories. He leads the league in field goal percentage (61.3) and blocks per game (1.1), while his team-high 6.2 rebounds is good for sixth and his 1.4 steals are 10th. Senior guard JayDee Luster has one of the top assist-turnover ratios in the nation at 3.8 and senior center Adam Waddell rounds out UW's probable starters at 9.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Washington had 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against Denver, while Cruz added 11 points.
The Bengals are paced by junior guard Melvin Morgan at 12.8 points per game, thanks to a team-high 23 threes, while also adding 2.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Senior guard Chase Grabau, the older brother of UW freshman Riley Grabau, is second on the team at 10.7 points to go with 5.4 rebounds and a team-high 3.8 assists. He also leads ISU in steals at 2.3 per game, and his 3.1 assist-turnover ratio ranked 21st in the nation entering the week. Fellow senior guard Kenny McGowen contributes 9.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest and is the best free-throw shooter on the team at 83 percent (25-of-30). Senior forward Abner Moreira is pulling down a team-high 7.5 rebounds, which ranks fifth in the Big Sky, to go with 6.1 points. Redshirt junior center Jakub Kusmieruk rounds out ISU's probable starters at 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
About the Series
Wyoming and Idaho State are meeting on the hardwood for the first time in 11 years on Thursday. The Cowboys hold an 11-7 advantage in the all-time series, including a current four-game winning streak. The two program's last meeting was an 89-83 UW win on Jan. 3, 2000 in Pocatello. Wyoming is 5-5 in its last 10 games with Idaho State.
Wyoming starts the New Year at Utah Valley on Jan. 3 at 7:05 p.m.