Gear up for gameday: Nevada
LARAMIE -- After blowing a 20-point lead in the opening game at Air Force last Saturday, Jeff Linder showed his team a boxing documentary, had some come-to-Jesus chats with his young group and told them their effort -- and habits -- weren't good enough to beat the best teams in the Mountain West Conference.
The following Monday, the team responded with a season-high 16 three-pointers in a 77-58 rout of the Falcons, snapping a four-game losing skid with the bulk of the league schedule on the horizon.
Friday night, once again, this roster that is littered with freshmen and underclassmen found themselves up by 20 only to see that lead turn into a one-point deficit with less than seven minutes to play.
Marcus Williams started the comeback against Nevada with a thunderous one-handed dunk from the corner. Kenny Foster followed with a triple and a pair of free throws. Kwane Marble found the bottom of the bucket on consecutive trips down the floor.
The 11-1 run gave the Cowboys a 10-point lead. They would eventually pull off the victory over the Wolf Pack, 71-64.
How did this team manage to escape with a win? They couldn't against Texas Southern in the second game of the season or last week in Colorado Springs.
"There's just been a different look, just a different feel, knowing that they have to do more," Linder said postgame Friday night. "They have to be more together. We got a group of a bunch of really good kids. I mean, great kids."
Linder added that sometimes "great kids" aren't always the best about holding each other accountable. Especially when you are talking about a group of 18 year olds and no seniors.
He said he has urged Hunter Thompson to be more vocal. Fellow junior Hunter Maldonado is one of those leaders in the locker room, too.
Young and old, Linder said his team has started to do just that.
"We knew that if we didn't have that type of, you know, discipline and effort (we were in trouble)," Linder said. "The talk leading up -- and in our practices the last two days -- there's just a different vibe, man."
So, when that lead disappeared Friday night, this team didn't panic. Foster said the team huddles during timeouts aren't used to just grab a quick blow and go over the game plan.
"I think it's everybody," he said when asked who is the calming influence on the sideline. "I think all of us talking in the huddle, we all listen to what everybody says. I can't really pinpoint one specific person player wise, but I think that is one of the biggest things -- we're all able to talk and everyone's able to listen to one another to be able to actually use it as positivity rather than negativity."
You'll see the standings below. The Cowboys travel to San Diego State for a two game set, beginning Jan. 30. Border War rival, and arguably the hottest team in the MW, Colorado State, pays a visit to the Arena-Auditorium Feb. 4. Then it's off to Logan to take on the Aggies.
Those teams are really good. They have a combined league record of 21-6.
But first, Wyoming will again battle with the Wolf Pack Sunday, hoping to earn its first league sweep of the season.
"I think it says that we're growing. We're growing as players. We're growing as a team," Foster said about overcoming Nevada's furious comeback attempt. "I just think it shows that all of us are maturing and learning how to play together and building that great chemistry with all these new guys have with us.
"I think that, in all seriousness, it's just growth, I think that's what these wins are showing -- us being able to pull through in the end."
And, in case you were wondering, Linder joked that he will try and hurry the game along so you can watch Josh Allen and the Bills in the AFC title game.
Does he think Buffalo has a shot?
"You know, from what I've seen, I mean, it's going to be hard to beat KC in KC, but you never know," he said. "I mean, (Patrick) Mahomes doesn't look like he's at 100%. So, if that's the case, hopefully Josh Allen could be -- I'm not sure how many former Wyoming Cowboy football players have played in the Super Bowl -- able to do that. That would be that would be great for him and great for the university."
The Bills and Chiefs kickoff at 4:40 p.m. MST.
Mountain West Standings
1 Boise State (13-1, 9-0)
2 Utah State (12-4, 9-1)
3 Colorado State (11-3, 8-2)
4 San Diego State (10-4, 4-3)
5 Nevada (10-6, 5-4)
6 UNLV (5-6, 2-2)
7 Wyoming (9-5, 3-4)
8 Fresno State (5-6, 3-6)
9 Air Force (4-9, 2-7)
10 New Mexico (5-9, 1-9)
11 San Jose State (3-11, 1-9)
Here is all you need to know about Sunday's tilt in Laramie:
WHO: Nevada (10-6, 5-4) at Wyoming (9-5, 3-4)
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. MST
WHERE: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie, Wyo.
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Wyoming affiliates
TICKETS: No fans allowed
BOX SCORE: Live stats
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Nevada
VEGAS ODDS: Nevada -3, O/U 146
HISTORY: UW leads the all-time series 16-9 (Wyoming knocked off Nevada 71-64 Friday night in Laramie.)
HEAD COACHES: Jeff Linder / Steve Alford