Hayden Dalton seen here against Pacific had a monster game against SDSU. Photo Credit: Pete Arnold.

The Wyoming Cowboys got off to a flying start in their 2017/2018 Mountain West conference season with an 82 to 69 win over San Diego State in Laramie. Here are some random thoughts on the win in the Dome of Doom.

Dalton’s Big Night

Hayden Dalton is the leading candidate for Mountain West Player of the year! Okay maybe not, but if he can play anywhere near this good consistently then we might be looking at a very special year in Laramie.  Against the Aztecs, Dalton put up a monster line 36pts/15reb/5asst/2blk while only having 3 turnovers.  That’s a performance any player in America would be proud of.  But we’ve seen performances like this before from HD, the problem is he has been can be wildly inconsistent.  One night he’s by far the best player on the court and the next he is a complete no-show.  I’m hoping we will see the version of Dalton that played against the Aztecs more often than turnover machine uninterested Dalton.

James Had An Off Night

Justin James had an off night against SDSU as he only had 9pts on 4-13 from the field.  Even though his shots weren’t falling I thought he was still able to get anything he wanted in the lane.  It was encouraging to see that James can still penetrate and get quality looks against a lengthy/athletic team like SDSU.  Even though James had a rough game Wyoming was still able to overcome that and get their biggest margin of victory against SDSU since 2001.  Even more impressive was the fact that James was on the bench when Wyoming took control of the game.  When was the last time Wyoming was able to beat a team like the Aztecs when arguably our best player had a bad game?

Maldonado And Kelley Make Strides

Would you have believed me if before the game I would have told you that we will beat the Aztecs by 13pts with Cody Kelley and Hunter Maldonado being our 2nd and 3rd best players in the game?  You would have thought I was crazy, and rightfully so.  I have been hard on Kelley in the past and he has been proving me wrong all season.  Even again tonight before the game I said to my brother that “Players like Kelley and Gorski don’t match up well with SDSU.”  So once again Kelley is making me eat crow and boy does it taste delicious.  Kelley was absolutely superb in the win, he had 14pts and was 4-6 from three.  As for Maldonado, it was good to see him back in the starting lineup, as he gives our team a much better defensive edge than Gorski.  Maldonado (6pts/6reb/4asst) didn’t do anything splashy but just seems to be in the right place at the right time and makes good smart basketball plays.

All Backup Line-up Needs Rethinking

The lineup experiment of all backups (Redding/Gorksi/Adams/Moemeka/Naughton) playing together at the same time needs to end.  I have no problem with any of those players seeing minutes in a particular game but they need to be mixed in and playing with starters.  There just isn’t enough scoring in that unit and against a defensive team like the Aztecs you’re going to struggle to score.  When that unit entered the game we were up by 2pts, when they left we were luckily only down by 1pt.  If Edwards continues to play that lineup together I see other teams making us pay significantly more than SDSU did.

Second Half Explosion

The second half against the Aztecs was the best half Wyoming has played all season.  We outscored them  45-29, we were 6-13 from three, we out rebounded them by 5, and we only had 3 turnovers.  Numbers can be deceiving and don’t allows paint a clear picture.  But in this particular case, they do.  Because it wasn’t all just Hayden Dalton making crazy shots you only see in a game of horse, Wyoming was getting almost anything they wanted offensively both inside and out.  The quality of looks we were getting in the second half were exponentially better than the first half.  Which gives me hope that this coaching staff can make halftime adjustments and we don’t have to be a team that just lives and dies by the three.

Front Line Possibilities

I would like to see us try playing a front line of Dalton/Herndon/Moemeka together.  I think that would give us a great combination of skill/shooting/athleticism/rebounding.  Herdon several times over the last few years has guarded the opposing teams’ top perimeter player so defensively he can guard the 3, so that shouldn’t be an issue.  Plus I think Moemeka needs more playing time anyway and that would be a good way to get him more minutes because when he plays he almost always gives positive minutes.

Get Out Of The Zone

I’m not a big fan of our zone defense.  It was better in the second half but I also think we sprinkled in more man to man looks in the second half as well but in the first half SDSU was able to get anything they wanted against it.  I’m sure the thinking was to make them beat us with three’s since they only shoot 30% as a team on the year.  The problem is we were giving them wide open three’s and even bad shooting teams can make those shots at this level and the Aztecs did just that as they made 6 three’s in the first half.  An additional problem with playing zone defense is giving up offensive rebounds since defenders don’t always have someone to box out, and were a poor rebounding team, to begin with so it compounds the problem.  I’ll give credit where credit is due and Edwards plan got us the win, but if we play zone against teams like Nevada (42% from three), Boise State/UNLV/Fresno State (40% from three), I think we will be in for a very long night