Wyoming basketball improved their record to 2-1 in Mountain West play and 11-5 overall with a 79 to 78 overtime win against Boise State in Laramie. Here are some random thoughts on the win.
A Tale Of Two Halves
At the end of the first half, Wyoming basketball trailed by 16pts/was out rebounded by 17/, shot 26% from the field, 17.6% from three and had 6 assists to 7 turnovers. Meanwhile, Boise State shot roughly 50% from the field. But in the second half, we out rebounded them by three, shot 66% from the field, 40% from three and had 11 assists to 7 turnovers. While also holding Boise to shoot only 31/4% from the field. What a difference a half makes! I’m not sure what Allen Edwards is saying to these guys at the half but in the second half against SDSU and BSU, Wyoming has played some of the best basketball they’ve played all season.
The philosophy of our rebounding needs to change. Under Larry Shyatt we adopted the philosophy of not actively pursuing offensive boards. Instead, the idea was to get back on defense and limit transition scoring. Edwards has continued this frustrating philosophy and it just isn’t working. There are a multitude of reasons why I don’t like this strategy. One, I don’t really think we’re saving very many points by making sure we get back on defense. Two, offensive rebounds often lead to some of the easiest buckets. Three, I believe it creates bad habits that carry over to having a fundamental weakness in all areas of rebounding. By freely giving rebounds up on one end of the court you don’t create a sense of urgency that instills the proper desire and demand to rebound the ball at all costs.
Maldonado Continues To Impress
He may not have won the player of the game award handed out by Walsh and Mckinney but there is no doubt in my mind that our MVP of the game was Hunter Maldonado. If you’re just checking the box score and not actually watching the games you are missing a quietly fantastic Freshman season by Maldonado. On the year he’s only averaging 4.1pts/2.5reb/1.6asst, and against BSU he had the very modest line of 8pt/3reb/2asst/2stl. But he just has a “knack” for the game and he always seems to be in the right spot at the right time and just makes good basketball plays. Against Boise, he had a couple of key steals (one of which helped sparked our big second half start), a couple of big assists, as well as a couple of huge threes. The game never seems too big for him and he brings a calming force to the team, which is uniquely impressive as a true Freshman. But maybe his biggest contribution is forcing Gorski to the bench. I don’t want to pile on the kid, but what does it take for the coaches to understand he’s holding the team back when he’s on the court. During Gorski’s entire UW career he is a 33.4% three point shooter (hardly a sharpshooter) who is a liability everywhere else on the court. I don’t care how good he shoots in practice, it’s just not translating to games and it probably never will at this point. Give him a 3-5min run in the first half of games and if he’s hitting his shot he plays more minutes that night. If he’s off, as usual, he sits. It’s really not that complicated.
Cody Kelley Debate
I had an interesting conversation with my brother on the drive home after the game. It basically was this “Did Cody Kelley have a bad, decent, or good game tonight? He had 9pts/5reb/4asst/2to/1stl, while shooting 28.5% from the field/20% from three/50% from the free throw line. He had a decent state line but he was a very inefficient shooter. It’s one of my fundamental beliefs in basketball that if you are a short guy with limited athleticism you have to be a knockdown shooter. And Kelley had a chance to ice the game away at the free throw line and he ultimately failed. He was also only 1-5 from three but conversely, he hit the biggest three of the game that saw us go from a 1 point deficit to a 2 point lead in the last minute of overtime. While my brother thought that Kelley had a “bad to decent” game I thought that he had a “decent to good game.” I’ve been hard on Kelley at times this year and I still question whether or not he can be a starter on a Mountain West championship caliber team, but I ultimately thought his tenacity and hard work on defense and his steady ball-handling lead him to have a good game against Boise. Maybe the reason I find the question “Did Cody Kelley have a bad, decent, or good game tonight” such an intriguing question is because it’s making me question one of my fundamental beliefs about basketball and has me considering a paradigm shift.
Evaluating Allen Edwards As A Coach
I know there is a lot of talk about whether or not Edwards is a good coach. I can’t truly decide what my opinion is of him. Because at the same time he both impresses and vexes me. I’m impressed that he took over a pretty sub-par team from Shyatt and won a CBI title. I’m impressed that he has Wyoming off to a 2-1 conference record while playing the top three teams in the conference. I’m impressed with some of the talent he has brought in. But at the same time, there does seem to be a lack of some basic basketball principles.
Playing your best players, having a consistent rotation, not playing bad players, end of game situational game management. It’s been discussed ad nauseam about Edwards rotations and whether or not Gorski should play. Here I want to discuss his end of half and end of game situational game management. Every game it seems we have the opportunity to take the last shot of the first half, and every time we fail to do so and give our opponent an extra opportunity. It happened again against Boise. In a game were getting smoked by 14 points we have a chance with 34.3 seconds on the clock to basically take the last shot of the half. Instead, we take a shot with 20 seconds still on the clock and instead of trailing by 14pts at half were down 16pts because inevitably Boise scored.
Later in the game Herndon commits his 4th foul with a lot of game still to be played and no on the bench realizes it and he plays an extra possession before we finally realize it and take him out (he could have easily fouled out). At the end of the game, Dalton (our best free throw shooter) gets a rebound when we know BSU has to foul and he passes the ball (hold the ball, make them foul you). Kelley intentionally fouls before they cross half court with still almost 3 seconds on the clock, essentially giving Boise time to get a rebound on a missed free throw and get a shot to either tie or win the game. On an inbound pass with 2.8 seconds left up by 1pt Dalton passes up a wide open Lou Adams and heaves a hail marry pass to Maldonado which bounces off him out of bounds, giving Boise State one last chance to win the game.
Now maybe it sounds like I’m nitpicking and certainly the players in question have to be held accountable for their decisions but when this kind of stuff happens game after game after game its got to come back to the players aren’t being coached up correctly. But at the end of the day probably the fairest answer is that the jury is still out on coach Edwards, and I for one am willing to give him some more time before I make my final judgment.
Big Three Produce
Wyoming’s big three of Dalton, James and Herndon all had solid performances. Dalton was huge at the beginning of the game and scored the first 10pts for Wyoming while everyone else was shooting bricks. Overall on the night, he had a very good line 29pts/12reb while playing all 45min. If it was Dalton who kept us in the game early, it was James who kept us in it late and helped force overtime. James scored Wyoming’s final 4pts of regulation, two of which came when we were down by 2pts with only 30 seconds left on the clock. James was solid but not unspectacular on the night, he chipped in 15pts/4reb/6asst. Herndon wasn’t much of a scorer against Boise (only 9pts) and he certainly needs to hit the boards more (only 3reb in 31min) but his impact was felt more on the defensive end and controlling the paint. He was only credited for three blocks but he was altering shots all night long and making it difficult for Chandler Hutchison every time he drove the lane. Hutchison finished the night only 6-19 from the field. Possibly the most impressive aspect of the game was Wyoming was able to win in overtime without 2 of their normal big three (James injury/Herndon foul out) playing much or at all in OT. No one individual took over in OT, it was just a collective effort with contributions from Kelley/Adams/Maldonado/Momeka/Dalton. It truly was impressive to see us win without two of our top players, most UW teams in the past 15 years wouldn’t have been able to overcome such adversity against pretty much anyone much less a top team in the conference like Boise State.