GAME NOTES: Life after Larry Nance Jr. figures to be very hard for Wyoming, as the Cowboys continue with their Mountain West Conference schedule tonight against the Air Force Falcons.
Nance Jr., who is listed as the top scorer (15.4 ppg) and rebounder (8.6 rpg) for the Cowboys on the season, recently had right knee surgery and will miss the remainder of the season, which means the prospect of the team finishing in the top half of the MWC standings is looking rather bleak. Without Nance Jr., who is also the leader in blocked shots with 55 in his 26 games, the Pokes bowed at Colorado State on Saturday in an 82-67 final.
Wyoming, which had a three-game win streak snapped with the loss to CSU, is now 8-6 in conference play and entered the week tied with Boise State and UNLV for third place in the league standings with four games remaining before the conference tournament.
As for the Falcons, they've come up on the wrong side of two straight league bouts and eight of the last nine, with the lone win coming against lowly San Jose State. Over the weekend, the Academy was thrashed by Nevada at home, 75-56, dropping it to 4-10 in MWC action and leaving the Falcons still next- to-last in the standings.
The Pokes won the first meeting of the season with Air Force at Clune Arena last month, 66-59, which means the all-time series now numbers 74-33 in favor of Wyoming.
Air Force fell behind the Wolf Pack right out of the chute on Saturday and never recovered, shooting just 5-of-25 behind the 3-point line and 7-of-15 at the charity stripe in the lopsided home loss. Tre' Coggins and Max Yon were the only double digit scorers for the Falcons, putting up 14 and 12 points, respectively, combining to shoot 10-of-24 from the floor, which means the rest of the roster combined to hit 12-of-36 on the afternoon.
Coggins, who missed some time due to a suspension recently, remains the leading scorer for the Falcons in conference play with his 15.9 ppg, having knocked down more 3-pointers (30) than anyone else on the roster, even though he has played three fewer games. Yon checks in with 13.7 ppg, but he hasn't been nearly as accurate as his backcourt mate beyond the arc, converting only 28.3 percent of his chances.
Running with a four-guard offense, the Cowboys went small against Colorado State and it cost the visitors dearly in the 15-point loss at Moby Arena over the weekend. Without Nance Jr. in the paint the Pokes were crushed on the glass, 37-21, and cleared just two boards at the offensive end of the floor. Nathan Sobey and Josh Adams led the offense with 15 and 11 points, respectively, while Derek Cooke Jr. accounted for nine points and seven rebounds in the setback as well.
Take away the production by Nance Jr. in the scoring department and the Cowboys are in dire straits, considering they are averaging only 65.4 ppg to begin with. It might be easier to find players to take more of the shots, but replacing that the big man can do in the paint is another story altogether, with Cooke Jr. standing as the top option on the glass with a mere 5.6 rpg. Riley Grabau (11.4 ppg) and Adams (11.3 ppg) can still put points on the board, but preventing opponents from doing the same could be a real challenge.
Air Force is typically a team that has trouble taking care of itself on the boards, but with Nance Jr. being out on the other side that might open the door for a number of possibilities for the Falcons.
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