Gear up for gameday: Fresno State
FRESNO, Calif., -- Rhythm.
That's a word Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder used multiple times this week when discussing the Cowboys' first game in 16 days. To make things even more challenging the next two games are on the road, too.
UW (6-1) opens Mountain West play at Fresno State (2-2, 0-2) today at 5 p.m. MST. The Bulldogs and Pokes will meet again Monday as part of the league's new two-game series format.
If that wasn't all hard enough, the Save Mart Center hasn't exactly been home away from home for the Cowboys. They are just 2-6 against the Bulldogs since Fresno State joined the MW in 2012. In fact, those two road victories are the only times UW has won on that floor in 15 tries.
So, what could be Wyoming's key to victory in California?
"The beauty of our team is we have nine guys that are good players," Linder said. "And to come off the bench with guys like Drake (Jeffries), Kwane (Marble) and Xavier (DuSell), guys that can go get 15-20 points very easily in a Division-I game, that's what has helped us get to the record we are at now. The bench has provided a lot of points."
In UW's last game, an 82-78 home win over Omaha, Jeffries' was the sixth man who did most of the damage. The junior guard sank five three-pointers and added 19 points. Jeffries netted 21 in a road win over Utah Valley the game prior, too.
Marble, well, you could call him the 6.5 man off the bench that night. The sophomore from Denver chipped in with 17 while hitting 6-of-10 shots from the floor.
That's not an aberration, either. This young squad has gotten plenty of help all season from beyond the starting five.
Maybe that's why Wyoming leads the conference in points per game (85.6) and three-point shooting (38%). The MW leading 10.4 turnovers per game isn't hurting either.
Guys named Marcus Williams, Jeremiah Oden, Hunter Maldonado, Kenny Foster and Hunter Thompson have had plenty to say about the Pokes' quick start, too.
COVID-19 has not been kind to Justin Hutson's squad.
Five of the Bulldogs' first six games have either been postponed or outright canceled. After an 87-47 win to open the season back on Nov. 25, Fresno State didn't play again until Dec. 19.
Both of those were lopsided victories over the likes of William Jessup and Fresno Pacific.
The 'Dogs first Division-I tests of the season came last week in Fort Collins. It wasn't pretty. Colorado State hammered Fresno State in back-to-back contests by scores of 75-53 and 81-59.
Like the Cowboys, FSU is breaking in basically a brand new lineup. There are just two seniors and a junior on the roster.
Also like Wyoming, it's a youngster leading the way for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Orlando Robinson has carried FSU throughout the first four games of the season, averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game.
The Las Vegas native is shooting 44 percent from the field and is pulling down a team-high 11.5 rebounds per outing. The 7-footer has been a problem in the paint.
That has also been the Cowboys' biggest issue so far this young season. However, Linder says not to panic -- sometimes, it's simply the gameplan.
When asked if he was concerned about the 27-point night from Omaha's Wanjang Tut, UW's first-year head coach didn't skip a beat.
"That's by design, though he did have a 'one shining moment' against us," Linder said of the 6-foot, 8-inch bruiser. "If someone is going to 'career' on us, it's going to be there post."
In layman's terms: Let him get his, make the other four beat you from the perimeter.
Fresno State, though it's just an early sample size, has not featured secondary scoring that strikes fear in its opponents. Not yet anyway.
Guards Deon Stroud and Isaiah Hill have averaged more than 11 points per night. The drop off from there has been significant.
Here is all you need to know about today’s tilt in Fresno:
WHO: Wyoming (6-1, 0-0) at Fresno State (2-2, 0-2)
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. MST
WHERE: Save Mart Center, Fresno, Calif.
RADIO: Wyoming affiliates
STREAMING: Mountain West Digital Network
BOX SCORE: Live stats
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Fresno State
VEGAS ODDS: Fresno State -1.5, O/U 141.5
HISTORY: UW trails the all-time series 11-20 (Bulldogs swept the season series in 2020)
HEAD COACHES: Jeff Linder / Justin Hutson