Gear up for game day: Oregon State
CORVALLIS, Ore., -- Jeff Linder's young squad has already been through a lot in the first three games of this season.
They had the blowout win in the opener against Mississippi Valley State. Then there was the heart-breaking two-point loss to Texas Southern. The last outing, a home game against Incarnate Word, fittingly, went into overtime.
Sunday, there will be another first for the Cowboys -- a road game.
Wyoming travels to the Pacific Northwest to take on Oregon State out of the Pac-12 Conference. The Beavers (2-1) and Pokes (2-1) will meet for the fourth straight season.
And, if all goes well, the Cowboys are bringing their entire squad with them. Something that has been very rare during the current pandemic.
"It will be nice to have entire team with 12 guys," Linder joked, referring to practice on Friday. "We will probably have our first full practice -- knock on wood -- since Labor Day."
In the first two outings of the Linder era, Wyoming raced out to big halftime leads. Last Wednesday with Incarnate Word in town, that didn't happen. In fact, it was the Cardinals who controlled the pace -- and the scoreboard -- throughout. Kenny Foster and Kwane Marble, two returning players of the four on the roster, were back in action in that one.
Boy, did that pay off.
Foster netted a team-high 21 points, including scoring eight of the Pokes' 16 points in overtime. Marble finished with 12 points and pulled down six rebounds.
Arguably the MVP of that win was Hunter Maldonado, another holdover from the previous staff.
The guard from Colorado Springs scored 14 points in 39 minutes on the court. He also dished out a team-high eight assists and snagged three steals.
"Maldo right now is like an old man, walking around gingerly," Linder joked. "I tell him, 'hey man, that's what winning feels like. You'll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday."
Can he replicate that performance this Sunday in Oregon?
In that lopsided loss to the Beavers a year ago, Maldonado netted a team-high 18 points. AJ Banks chipped in with 10 and Hunter Thompson and Foster both landed eight.
The secondary scoring was almost non-existent.
That hasn't been the case so far in the 2020-21 campaign.
Freshman point guard Marcus Williams leads all scorers, averaging 19 points per game. Maldonado is kicking in 14. Thompson 12. Drake Jeffries is averaging more than nine and Jeremiah Oden is hovering around six points per outing through three games.
For this first time since last March, Wyoming is leaving its "bubble." That's something Maldonado says he is looking forward to.
"It's interesting, with the COVID-19 policies, it's not going to be a normal road trip," he said. "The returners are adapting to that and the new guys coming on this trip, this is all they've seen. It will be fun, for sure, to kind of get away. We've been cooped up been here since May. To leave and not have to come home and probably quarantine is really nice."
Oregon State outlasted conference rival Cal in the opener, 71-63. They rolled to an 114-42 win over Northwest University last Friday.
The Beavers already got their first road game out of the way. That came last Wednesday night in Pullman, Wash., where they blew a 10-point lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
Washington State escaped with the 59-55 victory.
“We have to give Washington State credit because they outscrapped us, 50-50 balls, they got pretty much all of them and we just were in a fog,” OSU head coach Wayne Tinkle told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “This is on me. We got worse from last Friday (in a win against Northwest University) to today. I told the guys in the locker room, that’s on me.”
Through three games, Oregon State has five players averaging double figures. A sixth, forward Maurice Calloo, is averaging nine per outing. Playing Northwest University surely helped pad some stats, but guard Ethan Thompson has become a real threat, nailing 41.7 percent for his shots from beyond the arc.
Thompson leads the team, averaging 13.7 points per game, followed by Warith Alatishe (12 ppg), Zach Reichle (11.7), Tariq Silver (10) and Jarod Lucas (10).
This team rebounds and shares the basketball. They don't shoot a ton from distance, but rely on length to get to the hoop. A lot like the Cowboys, when this team is connecting, they're hard to stop.
“The big thing, the overall thing, is we got out-toughed. And our teams don’t get out-toughed,” Tinkle said after that loss to Wazzu. “And give them credit, they made some big shots down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Here is all you need to know about Sunday's tilt in the Pacific Northwest:
WHO: Wyoming (2-1) at Oregon State (2-1)
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. MST
WHERE: Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: Pac 12 Network
RADIO: Wyoming affiliates
STREAMING: Pac 12 Network
BOX SCORE: gowyo.com
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Oregon State
VEGAS ODDS: OSU -8.5, O/U 110
HISTORY: UW trails the all-time series 4-10 (Beavers won last meeting in Laramie in 2019, 83-63)
HEAD COACHES: Jeff Linder / Wayne Tinkle