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Cowboys try to bounce back after lackluster performance

Feb 26, 2013 - The Associated Press

University of Wyoming men's basketball coach Larry Shyatt didn't like his team's energy and effort in last Saturday's 65-42 home loss to UNLV.

It didn't take long for his team to respond.

"I thought our energy skyrocketed at practice (Sunday) because they didn't have much of a choice," Shyatt said Monday. "We got after it pretty good. I thought that was healthy for us, and hopefully that will pay some dividends (tonight)."

UW (18-9 overall, 4-9 Mountain West) plays at Air Force (15-10, 6-6) at 7 p.m.

Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. said there weren't any long talks from players or coaches about the performance at UNLV.

"We all knew what happened, and we were all disappointed in our performance," he said. "We came in Sunday to prove that's not how we are."

UW hopes to prove it is better than what it showed in a 57-48 home loss to Air Force last month when the Cowboys shot 33.3 percent from the field and 17.9 percent -- a season low -- from 3-point range.

Air Force played mostly zone defense, which limited the touches of UW's post players and forced it to make perimeter shots. The Cowboys didn't, as they made only 5-of-28 3-point shots, including just 1-of-12 in the first half.

"There's nothing that replaces making shots," Shyatt said. "As I watch tape of other ball clubs in the league, they too need to do the same thing when they play Air Force.

"We did have a relative number of open ones (against Air Force). We have to knock some in to loosen some things up."

UW has struggled to make shots in conference play. It is last in league games in scoring (53.4 points per game) and 3-point shooting percentage (29.1), and second-to-last in field-goal percentage (39.3).

Senior point guard Derrious Gilmore was 5-of-17 from the field against Air Force the first time and made only 3-of-10 from 3-point range. In conference play, he has been one of the better 3-point shooters at 35.1 percent and has made the second-most shots from behind the arc (31).

"When we get open shots, we have to take them and have confidence in ourselves and the shots we take," he said.

What will make UW more confident is if senior forward Leonard Washington is back in the lineup.

Washington missed the Cowboys' last two games with a sprained left ankle. Shyatt said Washington practiced Sunday and that he was "moving a little bit better. I hope and continue to hope he will be with us (tonight)."

Washington leads UW in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots and shooting percentage. He had 19 points and nine rebounds against Air Force last month, and was the only one out of six players that saw double-digit minutes that shot better than 50 percent from the field.

"We expect Leonard Washington to play," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We have to limit his touches inside. We have to do a good job with our interior defense."

This will be Air Force's first game in six days, and Pilipovich said the rest should do his team some good both mentally and physically. Senior guard Michael Lyons leads the conference in scoring (18.8 ppg).

The right-handed Lyons sprained his right thumb early in Air Force's 77-65 loss at Boise State last Wednesday.

"The thumb is still swollen, and he hasn't practiced since the Boise game," Pilipovich said.

"We were hoping to get him some reps (Monday) in practice. We have some guys who are banged up a little, but at this time of year, we tell them they can't be hurt."

Nance has battled flu-like symptoms for more than a week, but said Monday he is "feeling a lot better and definitely on the upswing."

In his last three games where he has been ill, Nance has scored just 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds.

He averages 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. ... UW has won two of its last four games at Air Force, but prior to that it lost five straight at Clune Arena.

Lobos, SDSU in top game

Another week, another pivotal game in the race for the conference championship among Mountain West men's basketball teams.

The game of the week this time pits San Diego State (20-7 overall, 8-5 MW) against No. 14 New Mexico (23-4, 10-2) in Albuquerque at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. New Mexico has a two-game lead over Colorado State and a three-game lead over San Diego State and UNLV.

San Diego State beat New Mexico 55-34 in San Diego on Jan. 26. New Mexico's point total was a school-record low during the shot clock era. "We are playing what is the best team in the league right now," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said.

San Diego State senior starting guard James Rahon missed the last two games with a sprained shoulder

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