3 Quick takes: Oden flashes brilliance in upset over OSU
CORVALLIS, Ore., -- The spotlight has been shining bright around here if your name is Marcus Williams.
The true freshman hasn't played anything like a rookie through the Cowboys' first three games. You can add the first two-plus minutes of Sunday's matchup at Oregon State where he scored Wyoming's first seven points.
Jeff Linder has said Hunter Thompson could be one of the biggest mismatches in the Mountain West. He will cause havoc with his 6-foot, 10-inch frame and outside shooting ability. Wyoming's new head coach also claimed Hunter Maldonado could be the best defender in the league when it's all said and done. Kenny Foster, well, Linder said he is an elite shooter. Especially from beyond the arc.
What about Jeremiah Oden?
The 6-foot, 8-inch, 180-pound forward from Chicago showed flashes during the Cowboys' first homestand, but what he did in Corvallis could be a glimpse into what he is capable of when Wyoming faces the Aztecs, Rebels, Rams, Aggies and others.
He has the length, but Sunday, the former three-star recruit showed he has the speed, patience and versatility, too.
"J.O., as we call him, as you could see, he's really talented," Linder said after the Cowboys knocked off the Beavers 76-73 Sunday afternoon. "He has no idea how good he's really going to be. He's just scratching the surface."
Oregon State is not the first team that probably comes to mind when Pac-12 basketball is mentioned, but they do have athletes.
Oden made them look slow at times. He spun, jumped and slashed his way through the paint, finishing with either hand. He showed he could hit from mid-range. He even knocked one down from deep as he finished with 15 points in the win while hitting 7-of-10 shots from the field.
He also pulled down four rebounds and snagged a steal.
That's not all. He also does things like this:
Hard to believe Oden averaged just 6.3 points per game against lesser competition, huh?
That production is certainly about to rise.
Oden got the scoring started in the second half. He made a nice spin move in the post and laid it in despite an OSU defender all over him. Then came the perfectly timed lob from Williams that Oden skied and flushed at the rim:
Guy can finish around the rim. He can rebound, run the floor and dribble drive, too.
There's five-tool players in baseball. Oden appears to be that on the hardwood.
"In the first half, you could see him growing in front of our very eyes," Linder said of Oden's 12-point effort. "His confidence is really building ... His work ethic, especially for a freshman, he's a guy that does all the right things. His work ethic is off the charts.
"With that, he gives himself a chance to be a really good player."
You probably asked yourself this question once or twice today: "What is going on with Hunter Thompson?"
The big man from Pine Bluffs was held off the score sheet until late in the second half. He finished with just six points, including a put back that pulled the Cowboys' to within four late.
Yes, Thompson did hit a three-pointer. A rather large one that made this a one-possession game with 1:34 remaining.
It's what you didn't see, Linder said, that made Thompson and MVP in this one.
"He's the focal point of other teams' scouting reports," he said. "He only had six points, but he caused a big, huge hole in the middle of lane ... He provides basically assists for creating gaps."
Wyoming did outscore the Beavers 40-22 in the paint.
Oh, and remember all the points Roman Silva racked up for OSU?
Trick question -- you don't. The 7-foot, 1-inch, 265-pound forward for the Beavers didn't play. Why? Linder said simply "he can't chase Thompson around."
Next time you think about the points Thompson isn't scoring, look at what Marcus Williams, Xavier DuSell, Hunter Maldonado and Kwane Marble, among others, are putting up.
Kenny Foster finished with a team-high 19. DuSell had a breakout game with 14. Williams added 11 and Maldonado netted seven.
Not too shabby, huh?
You might have noticed a loud noise coming from behind Wyoming's bench during these first four games of the season. Sure, there isn't much of a crowd to speak of. In Corvallis, there was silent cardboard cutouts.
Yet the noise remained.
That's coming from the Cowboy players who aren't on the court. It's boisterous and rowdy at times with towels flying and even chest bumps.
Turns out, it's an unwritten rule of Linder's program causing that ruckus.
"Regardless of fans in stands, one thing is we hold guys accountable," Linder said. "Body language on that bench is a choice. We can get into our own feelings or we can bring energy -- or as we like to call it -- juice.
"The eye in the sky doesn't lie," he continued, referring to cameras. "This is what a winning team's bench looks like regardless if your winning or losing. They are held accountable."
The cheering never ceased in Corvallis. Heck, all season. Even when the Cowboys (3-1) trailed by 11 early in the second half, those affirmations kept coming, whether it was from assistant coach Ken DeWeese, Eoin Nelson or the "juice man" himself, Sundance Wicks.
Did it help aide in OSU's 24-percent second-half shooting woes? Who knows. I'm sure it didn't hurt.
And despite all that carrying on, another thing jumped off the screen for me. This team that is loaded with freshmen and underclassmen, acted like they've been there before.
When the Beavers' desperation heave at the buzzer landed harmlessly on the court, Wyoming players hugged and shook hands. They didn't act like they won an NBA title.
Don't get it twisted for a second here, this is arguably the team's biggest non-conference road win since beating this same OSU squad 75-66 back in 2017. You may even have to go all the way back to 2011 when the Pokes smacked Colorado 65-54 in Boulder.
A celebration, after what this program has gone through over the past two seasons, was definitely in order.
"Obviously, without stating the obvious, I'm really proud of the effort and resiliency," Linder said. "As we discussed after Texas Southern, in order to win a good team has to have grit and toughness to win on the road ... This is a big step in the right direction for these guys and the work we have put in."
But I have a feeling they know bigger things are ahead.
They sure act that way.