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Pokes in Vegas, battle UNLV
Mar 3, 2012 - UW Sports Information
LARAIME - The University of Wyoming men's basketball team wraps up regular-season play with another tough road test this weekend. The Cowboys (20-9, 5-7) clinched their first 20-win season in nine years with a dominant 71-59 victory over TCU last Tuesday, but face No. 17 UNLV (24-7, 8-5) in the Thomas & Mack Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday, a building where the Runnin' Rebels are a perfect 16-0 this season. UNLV sits one game back of league-leaders New Mexico and San Diedo State in the race for the Mountain West regular-season title, while the Pokes are sixth and one game back of TCU and Colorado State.
You can catch all the details of the game in Sunday's Ranger.
A Look at the Matchup
The Pokes concluded a stellar home portion of their 2011-12 season last Tuesday with a dominant 71-59 win over TCU. The victory closed the gap between the sixth-place Cowboys and fourth-place Horned Frogs and gave UW its first 20-win season in nine years. Wyoming started all five seniors for their final home game and led by double digits the majority of the contest. UW also picked up their 15th home victory of the season for the second-most in a single season. The Pokes are currently sixth in the MW standings at 6-7 and 20-9 overall, but are one game behind TCU and Colorado State. New Mexico and San Diego State are tied atop the conference at 9-4. Wyoming's statistical numbers on the defensive end have slipped a little with the higher competition of the MW, but the Cowboys continue to keep opponents off the scoreboard. UW has held 28 of its 29 foes below their season scoring average. The Pokes were fourth in scoring defense (54.8 ppg) in the latest NCAA rankings and 27th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.2). Both marks rank in the top three of the Mountain West. Offensively, UW is 19th in the NCAA in free throw percentage (74.9), 27th in turnover margin (+3.1) and 44th in scoring margin (+8.8).
Ranked 17th in both polls, UNLV entered the week tied for first in the conference standings with the Lobos and Aztecs. However, a 66-59 loss at Colorado State last Wednesday dropped them to third at 8-5 in league played and 24-7 overall. The Rebels had a 41-26 halftime lead, but were outscored 40-18 in the second half by the Rams to drop UNLV to 2-5 on the road during the MW season. The Rebels are a different team at home, though, having earned a perfect 6-0 mark in conference play and 16-0 overall this season. One of the most athletic teams in the league, UNLV has some offensive firepower. The Rebels' 77.7 points per game rank 16th in the NCAA, while their 18.1 assists are second, 8.5 threes per game are 16th and plus 11.4 scoring margin is 17th. Three of the four marks lead the Mountain West. Defensively, UNLV paces the league in blocks (4.8) to rank 37th in the nation, steals (8.5) for 14th and assist-turnover ratio (+1.3) for 14th also. UNLV is 3-3 since a 68-66 loss in Laramie on Feb. 4.
Each Team's Leaders
Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington has been dominant in Wyoming's last two games with double-doubles in each. He notched 15 points and 11 rebounds against Boise State last Saturday and followed with 23 and 12 against TCU last Tuesday to currently rank in the top 10 of six MW statistical categories. His team-high 12.8 points are ninth and 6.9 rebounds are sixth. Senior guard Francisco Cruz has also been playing well, as he tied a season-high with five assists against the Horned Frogs and added 19 points. He averages 12.2 points and 2.2 assists on the season. Redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez contributes 12.1 points and has the longest active streak in the MW at 25 games with at least one three. Senior guard JayDee Luster posted a season-high eight assists against TCU to average 3.7 and continues to lead the MW in assist-turnover ratio. Senior center Adam Waddell notched 14 points versus TCU to average 9.7 on the season, and has drawn 15 charges during MW play.
UNLV sophomore forward Mike Moser continues to assert himself as a leading candidate for the MW Newcomer of the Year award. He averages 13.9 points and 10.7 boards thanks to 13 double-doubles this season. He ranks second in the MW and sixth in the nation in rebounds, while ranking fifth in the MW in points. Senior guards Oscar Bellfield and Chace Stanback were picks on the preseason all-MW team and have been solid for the Rebels. Stanback adds 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds, while shooting 47.1 percent beyond the arc to rank fifth in the nation from three. Bellfield paces the MW at 5.2 assists and is second in assist-turnover ratio at 2.2 to go with 9.9 points, while junior guard Anthony Marshall adds 12.0 points and 5.2 rebounds. Senior center Brice Massamba rounds out UNLV's probable starters at 6.2 points. Bellfield had 17 points against CSU and Marshall added 11.
About the Series
The Pokes trail in the all-time series with the Rebels, 15-28, but picked up a big 68-66 upset of then-No. 11 UNLV on Feb. 4 in Laramie. Four Cowboys scored in double figures in that game. Now UW visits Las Vegas, where it is 3-18 all-time and hasn't won since 2003.
Wyoming starts play at the 2012 Conoco MW Basketball Championships next Thursday. The Cowboys' opponent is still undecided until after Saturday's games.