Your Wyoming basketball random thoughts have arrived…
This is probably as close as we’ve came to seeing both Hayden Dalton and Justin James having their “A” games at the same time. No surprise that lead to an easy double digit victory where our smallest lead in the second half was 13 points. Dalton had 27pts/6reb/1blk/2to while shooting 61.5% from the field, 40% from the arc, and 90% from the free throw line. Dalton had one sequence in the 2nd half that almost became a Cowboy classic moment in the same vein as “McFall to Davis” or “Air McManamen.” On one possession Dalton hit a three about 5 feet behind the line with a guy in his face, on the very next possession he took another three that was about 10 feet behind the line that went half way down ,then out, then back in, but finally coming out. If that shot would have went in it would have been EPIC. James had 14pts/6asst/4reb/3stl/1to and shot 50% from the field. James was getting anything he wanted and was creating masterfully for his teammates. Many of his 6 assists lead to easy layups and dunks, like at the end of the first half where we got the ball with 10 seconds and James drove down the full length of the court and hit Dalton for the alley-oop before time expired. Dalton and James did all that while only playing 29 minutes (Dalton) and 27 minutes (James) respectively. Maybe the most impressive thing is that they only had a combined 3 turnovers, as both players can be a bit turnover prone. Allen Edwards mentioned in the post game interview with Dave and Kevin that he had a meeting with both players and told them “You (Dalton/James) have the most freedom on the team and with that freedom comes more responsibility,” its probably just coach speak but it would be nice if this is a sign of things to come.
I felt there were three fundamental basketball elements that we’re normally mediocre at that we excelled at against Utah State that essentially lead us to a wire to wire double digit victory, and those were defense, rebounding, and ball movement. We played mostly a switching man to man defense when we’ve been primarily playing a 2-3 zone. This was a vast improvement on what we’ve seen the last several games and it really seemed to propel us, as most of USU shots were strongly contested jump shots. We also had 9 steals on the night when we only average 6 per game and forced a total of 14 turnovers to only 11 assists. Any non Wyoming fan who looks at the box score won’t see a big disparity in the rebounding battle (34 WYO/30 USU) and will pay it little mind. But for a finesse team like Wyoming to win the rebounding battle by 4, when we usually lose it by 4 or 5 is a massive improvement, we essentially go from having to play up hill to playing on even ground.
Our ball movement was also much improved as we had 15 assists to only 9 turnovers. 15 assists may not seem like a lot, as that is our average per game on the season but those 15 assists are usually accompanied by 14 turnovers. In general I just felt like we were getting higher quality shots against the Aggies than we normally get. We were often passing up good shots to get great shots, something we normally don’t do a lot. For example we had one possession where the ball was moving around like a hot potato and then finally on the 8th or 9th pass we found Herndon for a wide open dunk. Hopefully that loss against Fresno State was the wake up call this team needed and we can play consistent fundamentally sound basketball from this point forward.
Aka-Gorski Steps Up
Alexander Aka-Gorski although not shooting particularly well played one of his best games as a Cowboy. He ended the night with 8pts/6reb/1blk only shooting 2-7 from three. But he was very active on the defensive end getting his hands on several balls that lead several turnovers and 1 block. He also hit the boards harder than I’ve ever seen him, he even followed up one of his missed three’s and got a put back layup. I’ve been hard on Gorksi as most of us have, but we need to give credit where credit is due and he’s been much better the last few games. And if he can continue contributing like he has the past several games he will actually be deserving of the minutes he’s been unjustly getting all season.
Redding On The Uptick?
Nyaires Redding has been coming on strong as of late and I thought he had another excellent game against USU. While his line might not be overly impressive 8pts/4reb/3asst/0to he contributes in all areas while not having any glaring weaknesses. He is a surprisingly effective slasher as he converted on all 4 of his drive attempts against USU (3-3 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe). Additionally he is a superb on the ball defender and when he is in the game he makes the primary ball carrier for the opposing team very uncomfortable. He as well as Cody Kelley did an good job of containing Koby Mcewen of the Aggies, limiting him to only 7 points when in his last 3 games he had been averaging 20 points a game. Interestingly in the last 3 games Redding has logged a total of 80min and Kelley only 42min. I think both players are important contributors but I believe Redding is the better player with more upside.
Both the positives and negatives of Andrew Moemeka’s game were on full display against Utah State. When Moemeka subbed in the first time he right away had a offensive rebound and put back dunk. The second time he subbed in he had another offensive rebound and put back layup and a steal within 30 seconds of entering the game. But on the other hand he committed 4 fouls in only 9 minutes of play. He really needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble because sometimes the best ability is availability, and next year we may need him to play 30 minutes a night with how inexperienced we will be on the front line.
Herndon In The Post
Alan Herndon was probably the biggest negative on the night although he wasn’t that bad 5pts/1reb/1blk/1asst/1stl and 1-3 from the arc. He started atrociously by air balling his first 3 point attempt then bricking his next, he followed that up by blowing a point blank layup. I’m a big Herndon believer but he has been struggling lately and against USU he seemed lethargic, especially in the first half. According to Edwards he has been dealing with a cold lately and for a player who isn’t known for exuding the most vibrancy to begin with, I can see how that would impact him more than the average player. Maybe there is some truth to the cold really bothering big Al because he averages 33 minutes a game, but in the last two outings he’s only logged 22 and 20 minutes.
Hopefully he can get back on track sooner than later because our next outing against UNLV on Saturday night presents a big challenge down low in McCoy and Juiston. And while Herndon has struggled lately he is vital to this team moving forward if they are gonna finish strong. I don’t think Herndon is appreciated for the player he is, people just want him to be something he’s not. Herndon is basically a finesse small forward with an outside/in game and he protects the rim (leads the conference in block shots). More than adequate considering he is our third best player. But people want him to be a physically dominating center who only plays inside with his back to the basket. Now I agree it woud be AWESOME if we had a dominating offensive low post player but we don’t and that’s not Herndon’s fault, that’s simply not who he is or every will be, and that’s okay.
Anthony Mack seems to be doing much better and I’m thinking he is completely symptom free of the concussion that sidelined him this year. The last few games he has shot a little bit on the opposite hoop as the Cowboys warmed up on the other basket. He also is now traveling with the team on roads trips which he wasn’t doing earlier in the season. Hunter Thompson is also doing better and no longer is in a walking boot, he has joined Mack in shooting a little during warm ups. Conversely Jordan Naughton is no where to be seen the last few games, as he has not been with the team home or away. I’m not sure what it is about this coaching staff but apparently they like players with some injuries to stay away from the team on game days (Mack early in the season and now Naugton).