Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
Alexander Aka Gorski (ankle)/Andrew Moemeka (concussion)/Anthony Mack (concussion) were all inactive for the game. Justin James played limited minutes (13) as he’s still recovering from a sprained ankle. Then during the game, Hunter Maldonado left the game and didn’t return due to a lower leg injury (turns out it was just a cramp). I’m getting worried about Mack who I believe can be a real contributor to this team. I can understand the team being cautious with a concussion but it’s been over a month. And not only hasn’t he played in the two games, he hasn’t even been in attendance. Hopefully, the early rash of injuries is partially responsible for the lackluster effort vs. Chattanooga. I know it’s easy to look at the game in a vacuum and conclude Wyoming didn’t play well because they are not that good team of a team. And while that might prove to be the case I’m willing to give this team the benefit of the doubt since we’re missing some very important pieces.
Live By The Three, Die By The Three.
In the first half, the Pokes raced out to a 16 point lead on the back of a strong shooting performance, ultimately going into the locker room at half up by 11 points. The Cowboys hit a robust nine three-pointers in the first half. In the second half, Wyoming only hit one three-pointer and Chattanooga outscored Wyoming by 2 points. Overall for the game, Wyoming was 10-21 (47.6%) from three which is fantastic and if we can keep that up we will be a very dangerous team. But hopefully we can be more consistent from half to half. I for one don’t mind Wyoming shooting so many threes, but I would like to see the offense work more from inside to outside instead of just passing the ball around the perimeter. If we drove and dished for three’s more I think we would get a higher quality look more often than what we got in the Chattanooga game.
The best aspect of the game was Hayden Dalton giving his best Kristaps Porzingis impersonation. The big man had 30pts/13reb/3asst/2blk/4to whiling playing all 40min and shooting 5-9 from the three point line. Four turnovers isn’t too bad for someone with such a high usage rate, but it seems to me that he’s always on the razors edge of committing a turnover. Dalton was fantastic and I know I’m nitpicking but I would like to see him shoot more and dribble less. Regardless he’s well on his way to a fantastic season.
Maldonado Under Control
Another bright aspect of the night was the play of true Freshman Hunter Maldonado. He got the start likely due to the absence of Gorski and he didn’t disappoint. If you just look at the box score you won’t be all that impressed, he had only 7pts/3reb/3asst. But he played tough defense and played within himself. While other guys like Dalton/Lou Adams often play too fast trying to do too much and make silly mistakes, Maldonado lets the game come to him and seems to always be under control. I’m really impressed by his demeanor and basketball acumen.
Kelley, James And Herndon
Cody Kelley is tenacious and never quits, even when guys like me always seem to doubt him. Every time I think the D1 game is too big for Kelley he turns in a solid performance (9pts/4reb/2asst/2to) and makes me reconsider. Maybe my problem is that I’m not convinced we can win the Mountain West Conference title with players like Kelley logging significant minutes. Hopefully I’m wrong and Kelley keeps proving me wrong.
Justin James was clearly not himself, as he only played 13 minutes. Hopefully he gets back to being himself sooner rather than later. Because I think we can all agree that Wyoming is going nowhere without James doing James type things.
On the surface it might seem like Alan Herndon had a mediocre game and wasn’t much of a factor. But in reality I thought he was a force in the paint on the defensive end as he had 4blks. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Herndon lead the conference in blocks this season and be in the mix for 1st team all-defense.
Overall I thought the team defense against Chattanooga was a vast improvement from what we seen from this team last year. The Pokes held Chattanooga to 40% shooting from the field which is pretty solid, but more than that I thought almost every shot they took Wyoming contested it well. I also thought our zone defense was an enormous improvement. Last year it seemed if we played zone defense on 4 possessions, we would give up a wide open shot on 3 of them. Against Chattanooga it seemed we played mostly a match up zone and it was very effective.
Why is it that we absolutely refuse to run out the clock and take the last shot at the end of the half? Time after time the last several years we shoot too early and give the opposing team an extra opportunity. Against Chattanooga Wyoming had a 13 point lead with the ball and the shot clock put to bed and we shoot the ball way too early, and inevitably Chattanooga gets a hoop just before half cutting the lead to 11 points and gaining some momentum leading into the second half. This is just simply unacceptable and basketball 101, yet we continue to do it again and again.
Wyoming shot 24-30 (80%) from the free throw line which is fantastic. I’m cautiously optimistic we can be an upper echelon free throw shooting team. It doesn’t seem we will have anyone playing significant minutes who is a true liability at the charity stripe, and several guys who should shoot close to 80% (Adams/James/Dalton/Gorski/Redding/Maldonado). I think it’s going to be huge to have a guy like Ny Redding to help close out victories. He not only seems to be an excellent free throw shooter but he also seems to be a good ball handler who plays with poise. Now we can put the ball in the hands of Redding to close out games instead of forcing it to Dalton (who is also a great free throw shooter but more prone to turnovers).
I was probably most disappointed on the night by the play of Lou Adams. It was a small sample size as he only played 15 minutes, but he seems like he hasn’t changed any from last season. He still seems to play too fast and out of control. Hopefully, this was just some rust since he didn’t play in the exhibition game. Because he has all the ability you could hope for, and for this team to reach its capabilities they need Adams.
Edwards rotations still seem to vex me. I won’t harp on this too much because I think injuries were the biggest factor in the weird rotations we saw against Chattanooga. But Sam Averbuck should not be closing out games that are still in question. I’m sure he’s a great kid and works hard but this is D-1 basketball not rec league. I’m glad he got the opportunity to come in and play but I think those minutes could be better utilized. Unless Edwards thinks Averbuck can be a rotational player at some point I think it’s shortsighted of him to give those minutes to Averbuck instead of a guy like Mueller who definitely can develop into at least a rotational player.