Stevens: Lobos In Laramie Facing Defense-Happy Wyoming Cowboys
Jan. 29, 2013
New Mexico Men's Basketball - On The Mountain West Road
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. (MT) - No. 20/22 New Mexico Lobos (17-3, 4-1 MW) at Wyoming (15-4, 2-4) - Arena Auditorium
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There is a similarity between the Wyoming Cowboys and the San Diego State Aztecs that should get the Lobos undivided attention.
The Cowboys also are a Mountain West team teetering on the edge.
That's what the Lobos ran into in San Diego and that cornered Aztec beast took a 55-34 bite out of Lobos. The Cowboys, 2-4 in the Mountain, are coming off a Laramie spanking by Air Force and cannot afford to drop another league game.
You want another similarity? The Cowboys also are pretty ornery when it comes to protecting the basket.
For sure, the Cowboys will come at the Lobos with a fierce defense. That's what they do best. Maybe they will add some offense.
"Our defensive numbers are remaining pretty strong," said Wyoming Coach Larry Shyatt, a former UNM assistant to Gary Colson. "And it's pretty obvious that the last seven games we haven't shot the ball well. That's an understatement."
In their last four MW games, Wyoming shot 33 percent, 41.7 percent, 24 percent and 42.9 percent. They won one vs. SDSU in Laramie and lost to Air Force, at UNLV and at Fresno.
What has hurt the Cowboys is their long-range gunning. In those games, they went 17.9 percent, 18.8 percent, 18.5 percent and 25 percent from 3-point range.
The Cowboys offense has not been good enough to win games, but they are sticking folks on the defensive end, which gives them a chance.
They held the SDSU Aztecs to nine points, four field goals and 16.7 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. SDSU shot 28.8 percent shooting overall. The Aztecs went 11.1 percent from behind the line.
"Obviously, they hang their hat at the defensive end," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "They are very sound defensively. They are a disciplined defensive team. They don't beat themselves at that end and they give themselves a chance because of the way they defend."
The Cowboys do play solid defense and are not typically an up-tempo team. They like to take the easy bucket when it's there, but they do not want to allow other teams to run in Wyoming's Arena-Auditorium. They do not want the Lobos to run.
In the half-court game, they are patient but they do not hesitant to launch from long range. They shot 28 3-pointers against Air Force and took 27 against Fresno State.
The Lobos have won a lot of basketball game by getting to the foul line and Coach Shyatt said that is not something he wants to see Wednesday night in Laramie. The `Pokes also cannot afford to get into foul trouble.
They have six players averaging around 28 to 33 minutes per game and two more players who average 9.5 minutes. The Cowboys are not deep and a slower pace is more to their liking.
Wyoming has four players in double figures: Leonard Washington (14.5), Derrious Gilmore (11.1) and Larry Nance Jr. (10.6). The fourth, Luke Martinez (14.5) was suspended for his involvement in a bar fight. That loss was critical for Wyoming and a major reason for the team's offensive woes. Martinez was Wyoming's top outside threat averaging 42 percent from behind the line.
That loss has forced Wyoming to lean on the 6-foot-7 Washington, who might be forcing up too many shots from long range. Washington is a force inside and averages 9.1 boards and has 41 blocks on the year. He is shooting 51 percent overall, but 20 percent from 3-point range where he has launched 55 times.
Obviously, the Lobos would be happier pushing Washington out of the paint and allowing his gunner instincts to kick in.
"He's a very special talent," Alford said of Washington. "He can step out and beat you on the 3-point line. He can drive the ball. He is very good in the post. He makes quick moves in the post; a very good rebounder, and he can run the floor."
Wyoming is averaging 63.3 points and shooting 44 percent from the floor. That's not bad shooting, but the `Pokes have been struggling in their past four league games. The Lobos are not the type of team you want to throw a struggling offense at.
"They know how to win at both ends of the floor," Shyatt said of his Wednesday visitors. "They understand how important it is to guard and rebound."
UNM is shooting .406 percent on the year and .335 percent from 3-point range. The Lobos are shooting .367 percent overall in their six true road games.
The 34 points at San Diego were the lowest ever for a Alford-coached team and UNM's lowest total since the shot-clock came into play.
"We got away from some of the things we had been doing and wanted to do," said Alford. "Sometimes the road does that to you."
The road to victory in Laramie should be a rocky one. The Cowboys will defend with a passion. Like the Aztecs, they have their backs to a wall and a home court to defend.
"Not a lot of people go up there and win," said Alford. "It's who plays well and who doesn't play well."
Yep, it also will be who shoots well - and who doesn't.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012-13 ROSTER/STATISICS