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Wyoming looking to get back on track on the offensive end

Jan 30, 2013 - The Associated Press

During Monday's teleconference with the Mountain West men's basketball coaches, the moderator mistakenly said the University of Wyoming was hosting Wyoming tonight.

Coach Larry Shyatt had a quick response.

"I wish we were playing Wyoming. But we would still probably struggle to score. But perhaps we would get a W," he said.

Struggling to score is the major topic of discussion around UW (15-4 overall, 2-4 Mountain West) as it hosts No. 20 and first-place New Mexico (17-3, 4-1) at 7 tonight at the Arena-Auditorium.

The Cowboys have scored more than 60 points once in their last eight games and averaged 49 points in their last two - both losses.

From 3-point range, they have shot 25 percent or worse in three of their last five games and less than 20 percent in three of their last four.

In conference play, UW is last in scoring (52 points per game) and 3-point shooting percentage (25.8), and seventh out of nine teams in field-goal percentage (39.4).

"Mentally, we know we can makes shots," sophomore guard Riley Grabau said. "It kind of gets to you mentally when you're missing them, but I think we are going to come out with an edge against New Mexico, and hopefully we can get a win."

After a 57-48 home loss to Air Force last Saturday, Shyatt said it is up to him to find more ways for his team to score points.

"I think you will see the same stuff we have been doing, but I think we've made a little wrinkle in the offense," Grabau said. "You should see a lot more movement and better end-of-shot-clock situations."

Scoring more points is UW's biggest concern, but there are plenty of others in tonight's game.

New Mexico trails only UW in scoring defense in league play. UW allows 54 points per game and New Mexico 59.

The Lobos also are one of the best teams in the nation in getting to the free-throw line. They lead the conference in free throws made (377) and free throws attempted (510). Their opponents have gone to the line 304 times, and New Mexico has outscored them by 172 points at the free-throw line alone.

UW plays only seven guys right now, so it can't get into foul trouble and allow New Mexico to get easy and free points.

Foul trouble hasn't been an issue for UW. Only two players have fouled out of games this season - true freshman guard Josh Adams (twice) and senior forward Leonard Washington (once). The Cowboys average about 15 fouls per game, which is the 23rd-lowest mark in the country.

"We are going to keep defending the way we have been doing," said junior guard Nathan Sobey, who at 6-foot-4 is the Cowboys' biggest guard in their current rotation. "Coaches always tell us to defend without fouling, so we are going to keep that mentality."

New Mexico is coming off its first conference loss last Saturday at No. 22 San Diego State, 55-34. The 34 points was the lowest in the shot-clock era for the team, and it got to the free-throw line just 11 times. However, the Lobos' defense held San Diego State to 40 percent shooting, 3-of-15 from 3-point range and 15 points below its season average.

In the Lobos' previous two losses, they responded by beating nationally ranked teams.

"We don't harbor on bad days or a loss here and there," coach Steve Alford said. "We are beginning the fourth week in a very difficult league, and we are in first place. We have issues and things we need to improve.

"We move on, show our players things we need to work on and correct. We would do that if we won at San Diego State."

After a 13-0 start, UW is in danger of losing two consecutive home games for the first time in Shyatt's two-plus seasons. A loss would be its third straight overall, which would match the second-longest under Shyatt.

And already, with four conference losses, the possibility of competing for an upper-half finish in the MW is quickly fading - not to mention postseason play in either the NCAA Tournament or NIT.

But all that matters to the Cowboys is this is their next game.

"I don't think we have to change anything drastically, and everything will work out," Grabau said.

Shyatt is 5-1 at home against ranked teams and has won three straight. UW has won nine of its last 14 home games against ranked teams dating back to the 1995-96 season. ... New Mexico has won three straight over UW and eight of the last 10. ... Shyatt was the associate head coach at New Mexico for Gary Colson from 1982-88. ... UW has committed fewer than 10 turnovers in each of its last two games and eight times this season.

Cowgirls at home

University of Wyoming women's basketball coach Joe Legerski says he loves taking his team to The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.

"I have a great time playing in there," Legerski said. "It's enjoyable even for the visiting team because it's a charged, energy-filled atmosphere.

"New Mexico's very good at home.

And they thrive off their fans, just like we do."

And maybe there's another reason: The Cowgirls have won two straight years in The Pit and three of the last five times they have played there.

This is the first time since the mid-1990s that UW has won two straight in the historic arena. It will go for three today. The Cowgirls (15-4 overall, 4-2 Mountain West) and Lobos (10-8, 2-3) meet at 7 p.m.

UW will have far more than a raucous crowd to deal with. It will have to try to handle New Mexico senior guard Caroline Durbin.

It didn't deal well with her last year.

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