GAME NOTES: A pair of Mountain West Conference programs tied for fourth place in the standings with the regular-season schedule winding down get together in Laramie, as the Wyoming Cowboys host the Boise State Broncos at Arena Auditorium.
For the Broncos, who are also tied with Nevada in the standings entering the weekend, they had been enjoying a three-game win streak before making the trip to California and being blown out of the water by Fresno State on Wednesday night at the Save Mart Center, 76-56. It was the most-lopsided defeat of the campaign for BSU, and dropped the team to 8-7 in conference.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys appear to be headed for a disappointing close to the 2013-14 campaign after losing leading scorer and rebounder Larry Nance Jr. (15.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) to injury. Like BSU, the Pokes also enjoyed a three-game win streak recently, but had that end last weekend with an 82-67 loss at Colorado State, followed by a narrow 55-53 setback to Air Force at home on Tuesday night.
The Cowboys own an 11-7 advantage in the all-time series dating back to 1979, shocking Boise State at Taco Bell Arena in the first meeting of the season in January by a score of 52-50.
This road trip for the Broncos got off on the wrong foot a few nights ago as the team shot only 38.0 percent from the floor, including 2-of-18 behind the 3-point line in the 20-point loss at Fresno State. Mikey Thompson put up 21 points to no avail, followed by Thomas Bropleh and Ryan Watkins with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Starters Nick Duncan, Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic combined to shoot only 2-of-17 from the field in the setback.
On the season overall, the Broncos are outscoring opponents on the average by 7.1 ppg, but the margin is much smaller against MWC foes, now just 1.3 ppg. Despite the miserable effort against the Bulldogs, Drmic is still the top scorer in conference play with 14.8 ppg, followed by Marks with his 14.5 ppg. Watkins is not only good for 12.9 ppg, shooting 53.1 percent from the field, he is also one of the top rebounders in the league with 12.5 rpg.
The Cowboys were paced by Nathan Sobey with 18 points, Jerron Granberry 14 and Josh Adams 11 points, while Derek Cooke Jr. came off the bench to offer up seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds in the setback. Wyoming didn't do itself any favors with just 1-of-7 shooting beyond the arc and 6-of-12 at the free-throw line in the first half. In the second half, the Pokes connected on 12 field goals, but again had issues out on the perimeter (3-of-13).
With the loss of Nance Jr., the Cowboys appear to have changed their approach by going with a smaller lineup, but the intent on having a tough defense remains the same. The team is holding league foes to only 60.1 ppg, but with just 61.7 ppg on offense the margin for error is slim to none. Adams leads active players with his 11.4 ppg in conference play, followed by Riley Grabau and Sobey with 10.8 and 10.1 ppg, respectively.
A weakened interior for the Cowboys, combined with an angry Boise State bunch after and embarrassing loss, has all the makings of a win for the Broncos when the teams hit the floor today in Laramie.
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