3 Quick takes: A prideful Ike drops the hammer on Rebs
LARAMIE -- Let's face facts: Graham Ike got worked last Thursday night in Logan.
Neemias Queta netted 14 and made things look way too easy against Wyoming's 6-foot-9 true freshman. That's been known to happen. Ike certainly isn't alone when it comes to being brutalized by Utah State's big man.
Postgame, Jeff Linder said Ike got a firsthand look at a "pro" in the 72-59 loss to the Aggies. The Colorado product connected on just one bucket all night long inside the Spectrum. He was 1-of-6 shooting and pulled down just two boards.
For good measure, Queta hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds and swatted away five futile Wyoming shots in the lane.
Ike's 19-minute slugfest with Queta didn't live up to the billing, to say the least, but the rookie must've taken notes.
With 1:09 left in the first half tonight, Ike snagged a pass down low in the paint. UNLV junior Edoardo Del Cadia was in position. That is until Ike hammered the 6-foot-7 center with a right shoulder, knocking him back a step before softly laying in his team-leading 13th point of the night. He also drew the foul.
Before Del Cadia could run back to join his teammates on the offensive end of the floor, one of UNLV's assistants summoned him to the bench where the two had a nice little chat.
Del Cadia wasn't the only Rebel to get punished by Ike in this one.
So did Devin Tillis.
And Cheikh Mbacke Diong.
And Moses Wood.
Ike finished the night with a team-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds. Imagine if foul trouble didn't keep him on the bench for a long stretch of the second half?
"I just learned to just keep moving on," Ike said of the lessons learned from the meeting with Queta. "You know, I learned a lot from that game just went back and I saw a lot of film. Honestly, we just had a quick turnaround after that, you know, and you just can't can't get caught up in that last game. I understand it was a tough one. So, you learn from it and we'll just go from there. Let's see what we can do in this next game -- or the next practice."
That's not just lip service, either.
The first-year head coach said Ike was one of the first ones in the building Friday morning. He wanted to watch his offensive and defensive sets against Queta. He wanted to get the extra work in, Linder said.
"You got a choice. You have a choice if you want to or how you want to respond," Linder said. "Responses are everything in life, and his response after getting his butt kicked by Queta was that he showed up in the office the next day at 11 o'clock when other guys said I'm just going wait for practice. But he came in, got an early workout in and he came to my office and he watched film. Then he went got another workout in before practice.
"You know, Graham has a lot of pride. That's what's going to make him a special player. He wants to be great. He's starting to realize what it takes."
Wyoming 80, UNLV 69
If the Pokes play like this in Sin City ...
Wyoming put this one to bed early tonight.
Weird saying that when it has been a rarity this season -- and it's midnight.
With the rout in process, it was easy for thoughts to drift to next week's Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas where the Cowboys will have the No. 8 seed and will take on ninth-seed San Jose State in the first round at noon on Wednesday.
Despite the opponent, if Wyoming can do a few things it did Saturday night in Laramie, the Pokes could be a nightmare matchup.
Yes, even for the top-seeded San Diego State Aztecs in round two.
* Kwane Marble slashing his was to the bucket. And remember, he was also a member of last year's MW All-Tournament team. You think that adds some confidence?
* Hunter Thompson has been shooting -- a lot. That's a good thing. And when they go in the way they did tonight (4 of 7 from three), that makes the Cowboys dangerous. He was also a big reason Wyoming knocked off Nevada in last March's quarterfinals. You can throw Kenny Foster's name in the mix, too.
"I'm just more proud of Thompson," Linder said, adding that he shots so many shots throughout the week he has to tell him to pump the brakes. "He's never griped once about coming off the bench. I mean, he lost his spot the starting lineup to Graham and never blinked. All he does is keep coming in wanting to get better... There's lots of care. And he really cares."
* Hunter Maldonado gliding to the paint. If he isolates on a weaker opponent, he strikes. And more times than not, the ball goes in the hoop. He did it over and over again tonight while netting a dozen. He is also one of the Pokes' best defenders and the team's best assist man. He had a team-best five of those tonight.
* Xavier DuSell hits seemingly everything, doesn't he? He shot a pair from deep in the win over UNLV. Both connected. If he gets hot -- and drives the lane himself -- look for Ike (and maybe even Eoin Nelson) to be on the receiving end of some dishes down low.
* Drake Jeffries deep-threat ability makes this team extra scary. The Cowboys' sixth-man has been lethal of late. He was 4 of 6 from three against the Rebels. Remember when he air-balled a big three in the final minutes of a home loss to Colorado State? He spent the next 45 minutes postgame shooting threes by himself inside an empty Arena-Auditorium. He's been really good ever since.
"I was really doubting myself, you know," Jeffries said postgame. "I can go out in a game and I can't hit anything. Practice was good, though. I just had to keep working."
* Last, but certainly not least, Marcus Williams. He has had a rough couple of games offensively to close out the regular season, scoring just four points against both Utah State and UNLV. Surely that won't last, right? The kid is way too talented. It often goes unnoticed, but he has been way more active on the defensive end of the floor.
"The last probably month or so, I mean, he's hit a wall," Linder said of Williams. "He's starting to realize that playing college basketball is hard. It's hard when you're young and the leading scorer and you're the focus of the other team's scouting report."
Is he concerned?
"He has a choice," Linder said. "He can feel sorry for himself or, like Graham did, he can come in and get better. But that's that's up to him."
Basically, if the Cowboys do what we all know they are capable of, this could make for another unexpected yet exciting March. They just need to mimic what they did to the Rebels tonight.
More on Jeffries
Tonight the junior-college transfer literally rattled off his shooting stats from all the way back to the San Diego State series in late January.
He wasn't reading off a piece of paper either.
This guy is obsessed with the game of basketball. Linder put it like this:
"There are the 'live it guys,' which there's not very many that live it. There are more 'love it guys,' but there's a lot more guys that just like it," Linder said. "You really want to try to eliminate the guys that just like it. This is way too hard and you're way too high of a level where if you don't live it or you don't love it, you're at the wrong level.
"The thing about Drake is, he's what you saw after that game (taking shots alone). He's in the gym all the time, whether that's on his own, and whether that's with the coaching staff."
He added, "That's why we recruited him."
Jeffries has averaged more than 13 points per outing over the last five games and has hit 17 triples. He has also been active on the defensive end of the floor and has hauled in 11 rebounds. He's turned the ball over just twice in that span, too.
Jeffries is finding his confidence at the perfect time.