3 Quick takes: Pokes need more from Taylor
LARAMIE -- Say hello to the good TJ Taylor.
In fact, Wednesday night -- in the first half -- he was really good.
He dove for loose balls, went through traffic to get rebounds, took a charge and poured in seven points to go along with a team-high six rebounds.
The second half was a different story.
Taylor finished the night with 10 points, eight rebounds and a pair of turnovers.
Consistency, he says, is the one part of his game that is serious lacking so far.
"I think that's the missing piece for me right now," Taylor said in his post-game press conference. "I think, when I'm playing hard and doing the little things, it shows. When I'm not, I lose focus and things like that. That's when it hurts the team."
The not-so-good Taylor was on display in Columbia, S.C., Sunday afternoon. The sophomore from Chesapeake, Va., scored two points in 18 minutes. Both of those were from the free-throw line.
The 6-foot, 6-inch forward pulled down one rebound. He was 0-for-3 from the field. He added a turnover.
Last season, Taylor showed glimpses.
He scored 21 points in a win over Grambling State, becoming the first Cowboy freshman to net that many since Desmar Jackson poured in 31 against Utah way back in 2010.
Taylor added 14 points at The Pit in a loss to New Mexico and hit double-digits in scoring eight times.
Then, there was the other guy.
The guy who was invisible for a majority of the second half Wednesday night.
The guy who was held scoreless three times last season, including the opening game of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. Ten times Taylor scored four points or less. Through two regular season games this year, Taylor had four points.
Wyoming needs the good Taylor -- in a bad way. He was a difference maker in the first half Wednesday night. That needs to happen more often.
Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said it's no big secret, Taylor needs to provide secondary scoring to help this team win games.
"TJ, and I've said this to him and in front of the team, because of his understanding of the game, he has to find ways, whether it's something called for him or with in what we are doing, to get to the foul line or score baskets for us," Edwards said. "That way we don't have to lean heavily on (Hunter) Maldonado or Jake (Hendricks) making shots ... It's about having a more balanced attack so Maldonado doesn't have to score 32.
"These guys are still going through that process of figuring it out. It's not going to happen overnight."
Cal State Fullerton 60, Wyoming 53
Slow starts becoming problematic
Wyoming missed its first five shots Wednesday night as Cal State Fullerton took an early 9-0 lead.
The Cowboys chucked up a pair of air balls and clunked a couple off the iron. It was starting to look like the South Carolina hangover was very real.
The second half was even worse.
The Pokes misfired on their first eight shots. The only points in the first seven minutes came on a Hunter Thompson free throw. They turned the ball over six times and let the Titans go on a 10-o run.
How bad were things on the offensive side of the ball?
A student hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and a half-court shot during a halftime contest. He outscored Wyoming by himself. He would've been the Cowboys fourth-leading scorer tonight. He also received the loudest cheer of the night from the 3,003 in attendance at the Arena-Auditorium.
Yeah, it was that bad at times.
An embarrassing turnover by Hendricks under the Cowboy hoop led to quick points. So did a mistimed pass from Taylor. It was a comedy of errors until Maldonado hit back-to-back buckets to give Wyoming a 35-33 lead with 12:22 to go. He finished with a team-high 15 points and has been the Pokes leading scorer in their first three games.
"Turnovers, we had too many turnovers," Hendricks said, looking down at the final stats. "We just got to come out better and be more prepared offensively. We're more worried about defense and we didn’t play the best of defense to start the second half, either.
"That’s where we hang our hat, on defense."
That brief lead disappeared quickly. The Cowboys netted just five points in more than 10 minutes to begin the second. Cal State Fullerton took advantage.
"T thought we dug ourselves some holes tonight," Edwards said. "... I love the fight and the comeback, but we had a spell in the second half where we went 0-for-4 with four turnovers, which led to a 10-0 run by them and we go down eight."
You know what else the Titans took advantage of -- turnovers. The Pokes turned the ball over 15 times. Cal State Fullerton turned that into 20 points.
This is becoming a theme.
Wyoming shot just 23 percent from the floor Sunday in a 66-32 blowout loss at South Carolina. If that wasn't bad enough, three of Wyoming's starters combined to score just six points on the afternoon. That was Jake Hendricks, Austin Mueller and Greg Milton III.
Another starter, Hunter Thompson, scored just three. Hunter Maldonado netted 10 points.
Quite simply, that's not getting it done. At home or on the road. That's what leads to getting boat-raced by 34. Fifteen turnovers also helped the Gamecocks cause.
The discouraging part is the trends that are following an all-too-familiar pattern: 15 turnovers, out-rebounded 41-21, losing -- badly.
It's a recipe for disaster. You know, like the 2018-19 season.
The offensive chances aren't plentiful for the home team. They likely never will be. They slow it down, drain clock and wait for the perfect shot each trip down the court. It's frustrating at times. Boring at others. But when it's effective, the way it was in the season-opening win over Idaho State, Wyoming typically ends up in the win column.
"The fight to get back in the game and go up eight, I like that about us," Edwards said of the first half finish. "As we continue to grow, the one thing I told our guys is, we need to learn how to win basketball games."
That didn't happen tonight.
Thompson must become offensive threat
The gospel of Edwards revolves around defense. He preaches it daily. He jams it down his players' throats. He demands it.
Thompson is a saint in that regard. It's the other that is going unfulfilled. He scored just six points against Cal State Fullerton. He shot 1-for-9 from the field.
Hendricks and Taylor are preaching to the big man, too.
"Just keep shooting it," Hendricks said he tells Thompson. "Every shooter goes in a slump. Just keep getting in the gym and let it fly when its open."
"I believe the next one is going in," Taylor added.
Edwards calls Thompson a "unicorn." What does that mean? Well, it alludes to the fact that at 6 feet, 10 inches and 235 pounds. Thompson has to be accounted for. Why? Because he can shoot, drive, dunk, the whole nine.
The offensive part of Thompson's game has been slow to develop so far this season. He has just 13 points in the Cowboys first three games. Thompson's offense badly needs to emerge sooner rather than later. The sophomore from Pine Bluffs had a quiet night Wednesday, scoring six points and pulling down three boards. He's capable of much more.
Edwards knows it. So does Thompson.
"I don't think he's pressing, to be honest with you," Edwards said. "I think he's trying to do right."
Edwards said Thompson falls in love with the 3-ball and forgets to use his other tools sometimes.
"What I liked about him tonight, and I complimented him on this, sometimes you have to show your shot fake and put the ball on the floor," Edwards said. "He's mobile for a big guy. The shot fake that he showed tonight, he drove right and dropped it off to TJ. He has to make those plays, as well, rather than just being a guy who picks and pops."
Thompson was 1-for-6 from beyond the arc against the Titans.
Wyoming will host Oregon State of the Pac 12 Saturday night in Laramie. The Beavers are 2-1 on the season, knocking off Iowa State, 80-74, in their season opener. The lone loss came in Portland. That was a 77-69 setback against Oklahoma.
Was this loss to Cal State Fullerton demoralizing, considering what happened at South Carolina? Hendricks says no.
"We just have to come back get ready for Oregon State," he said. "We need to just keep plugging away and get better."