While New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State have slid in and out of the Top 25 through the first half of the season, the Mountain West Conference has shown that it possibly has the most depth that it has ever showcased. This was certainly illustrated last weekend, when Colorado State and Air Force took the Aztecs and the Runnin’ Rebels to overtime on the road before dropping close decisions. In fact, the RPI rating of the Mountain West was third this week in college basketball behind the Big Ten, and the Big East.
Larry Shyatt has guided the Wyoming Cowboys to a 14-1 start which has helped the MWC rise to third in the RPI ratings.Credit: Wyoming Athletic Media Relations
With that comes the last team to lose a game in the league in the Wyoming Cowboys, who have streaked to a 14-1 mark although they lost their first outing last week on a buzzer-beater against Boise State.
“I wasn’t really sure how our guys would react, but I was pleased with the effort and mental focus,” said coach Larry Shyatt after the Cowboys knocked off Nevada 59-48 Saturday night, “We’re 5-0 on the road and have really showed resiliency away from home and with the loss of individual players.”
Key injuries to contributors Riley Grabau and Luke Martinez gave the opportunity for the distortion of chemistry from the youthful group, but that never happened as freshman Josh Adams has come into Shyatt’s line up and played at a high level. Martinez has his hand in a cast after an off-campus altercation and it looks as though the sharp-shooting senior may not play anymore as he could be dismissed from the team, according to reports.
“I really don’t have the real answer, but I have a lot of confidence and I trust our guy,” said Shyatt, “Right now I feel pretty good about our team, not in terms of talent because of some of the teams we have to play, but in terms of effort and focus.”
Adams has seen an increased role as he has played over 30 minutes in his last three games and has contributed across the box score. His all-out hustling mentality makes him a player who does the little things that might not always find their ways to the inside- the-numbers columns.
“He is sort of like an Eveready battery,” noted Shyatt, “It is better if you are a coach and have to slow one of your plays down. He plays so hard and is a good backcourt mate of Grabau because they are opposites in what they bring to the table.”
Both players bring intangibles that complement each other as well as point guard Derrious Gilmore in that Adams’ ball-handling and defense are on the same plane with Gilmore while Grabau is a good spot up shooter and with the potential loss of Martinez, the shooting ability of both will be even more emphasized.
These diversely talented guards have thrived around the overall skills of Cowboys’ leading scorer 6-7, 230-lb. Leonard Washington. He is a tough match up on all areas of the court as Nevada found out Saturday night. Washington, who shoots 53.4% from the field, went 8-of-15 from the floor and he had 16 points and 13 boards in notching his third double-double in the Cowboys’ last four games.
“Leonard can dictate tempo from the game, like a guard, and that is important if you are going to be successful,” Shyatt analyzed, “I want to complement him in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio. He is finally on the plus side. I am happy to see him trying to make plays for other guys. People are showing their hand and double and run at him, which is on the table the rest of year.”
As the Cowboys are in Fresno tonight, attention will turn to a Saturday afternoon match up at home against San Diego State. A victory over the talented Aztecs will leave no doubt that these Cowboys have earned their spurs.
- Ken Cross
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