LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team starts its 16th season of play in the Mountain West by hosting UNLV on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium. The New Year's Eve showdown is UW's earliest start to conference play in the program's 110 years of play. The Cowboys (11-2) own a 10-5 record on the holiday and have won 11-straight overall games in the Double A, but the Rebels (9-3) toppled No. 3/3 Arizona last week at home and are receiving votes in the latest Associate Press poll.
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 ESPN3 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.
A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming wrapped up nonconference play with an 11-2 record after a 61-51 win at Montana State on Dec. 23. The Pokes led by five at halftime and as much as nine in the second half, before the Bobcats hit a three to pull within 53-51 with 2:39 left. That would be MSU's last points of the game, though, as Wyoming closed the contest with an 8-0 run for its first road victory of the season. As a team, UW shot 46 percent (20-of-44) from the field, but made just two of seven three-point attempts. The Pokes made up for that with a 19-of-31 showing at the free throw line, the sixth time this season UW has attempted more than 25 free throws in a game. Both teams collected 34 rebounds, but the Cowboys committed nine less fouls. MSU shot 36 percent (18-of-50) from the field and 31 percent (6-of-19) from deep. On the season, Wyoming averages 63.5 points per game on 50 percent from the field and 34 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys rank first in the MW and 10th nationally in field-goal percentage, while their 1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio is first in the MW and 11th in the nation. Defensively, the Pokes allow 49.9 points per game on 39 and 34 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is third in the NCAA, while its 13.8 fouls per game are sixth.
Head coach Dave Rice and UNLV returned no starters but from last season, but visit Laramie with a head of steam. The Rebels are 9-3 overall for fifth in the MW standings through the nonconference season, as the three losses came versus Stanford, at Arizona State and versus No. 14/14 Utah. UNLV earned a statement 71-67 victory over No. 3/3 Arizona on Dec. 23 at home and most recently blasted Southern Utah, 79-45, last Saturday at home. The win over Arizona was the Rebels' first over a top-three team since 1988 and snapped the Wildcats' 39-game regular-season nonconference winning streak. Against Southern Utah, UNLV took a 36-28 lead into halftime, before opening the second half with a 24-3 run to blow the game open. The Rebels held SUU to just 16 percent (5-of-31) from the field in the second half and 25 percent (16-of-63) for the game, while connecting on 46 percent (25-of-54) from the field and 44 percent (11-of-25) from deep themselves. UNLV earned a 50-32 advantage in rebounds and 20-8 in assists. As a team, the Rebels are fourth in the MW at 68.8 points per game on 44 percent from the field and 34 percent beyond the arc. Defensively, they allow 62.4 points for sixth in the league on 36 percent and 31 percent, respectively. UNLV is first in the MW and 14th in the nation in field goal defense. The Rebels' 7.8 blocks per game lead the MW and rank second in the NCAA.
Each Team's Leaders
Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. looks back to his old form just in time for the conference season. The MW Preseason Player of the Year scored 31 of Wyoming's 61 points at Montana State for the second 30-point game of his career. He paces the Pokes at 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, while his 57 percent from the field is 35th in the NCAA. Senior forward Derek Cooke has scored in double figures in three-straight games for the first time in his career, including his first double-double this season with 13 points and 11 rebounds at MSU. Cooke contributes 8.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while shooting a MW-high 78 percent from the field. Junior guard Josh Adams tied a career high with four steals against the Bobcats and averages 1.4 per game to go with 9.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and a team-high 3.9 assists. He ranks third in the MW in assists and third in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.3. Senior guard Riley Grabau adds 7.5 points and 2.0 assists, while shooting a team-high 88 percent at the free throw line. Redshirt sophomore guard Jason McManamen started in place of injured senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. at Montana State and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds. He averages 4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per contest.
Guard Rashad Vaughn, the MW Preseason Freshman of the Year, is first in the MW and 49th in the nation in scoring at 18.1 points per game, including 22 points against Southern Utah. Sophomore forward Christian Wood has been just as impressive at 14.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. His eight double-doubles this year are fourth in the nation, while he is 12th in blocks. Wood leads the MW in rebounding and blocks after 22 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks versus Southern Utah. Freshman forward Goodluck Okonoboh is second on the team in blocks at 3.0 per game, 15th in the nation and second in the conference, to go with 5.2 points and 5.9 rebounds. Senior guard Cody Doolin leads the squad and MW at 4.6 assists and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.9, which is 34th in the country. Senior guard Jelan Kendrick rounds out the Rebels' probable starters at 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest. UNLV has used a rotation this season that includes five freshmen, one sophomore and two seniors.
About the Series
Wyoming trails in the all-time series with UNLV, 15-34, but owns a 12-9 mark in Laramie. The last six meetings have gone to the Rebels, including the last two by a combined six points. The Cowboys' last victory over UNLV was a 68-66 upset of the No. 11/13 Rebels on Feb. 4, 2012, in Laramie. In the last meeting between the two, UNLV earned a 71-67 win on March 13 in the quarterfinals on the MW tournament in Las Vegas. Josh Adams posted 24 points and UW was within one point of the Rebels with 23 seconds left, but UNLV made key free throws in the end.
The Cowboys play at San Jose State on Saturday at 8 p.m. MT.