Gear up for gameday: Omaha
LARAMIE -- Five wins in a row.
The last time that happened came all the way back in 2016. The Cowboys won seven straight and jumped out to an 11-3 record that season. They also won the CBI Championship that spring.
Jeff Linder's squad is 5-1 on the year and will host Omaha tonight in the final non-conference game of the season. It's also the Cowboys' final game of 2020 after UNLV was forced to cancel this weekend's two-game set because of COVID-19 concerns on the Rebels' roster and coaching staff.
Though Linder wants to see a better defensive effort than the one his team displayed in a 93-88 road victory over Utah Valley last Saturday, the extended layoff that will proceed tonight's game has Linder thinking about the wellbeing of this young group.
“I am not going to sit here and not allow the guys to not experience Christmas with their families,” Linder said on Tuesday. “If the NCAA is about mental health and we’re about mental health, to not let the players go home for Christmas is asinine."
Wyoming's first-year head coach knows there is plenty of risk involved in that decision. It could eventually lead the Cowboys to postpone future games if anyone comes down with the virus over break.
That's a risk he's willing to take.
Because players like Kenny Foster and Kwane Marble have been on campus since April. Hunter Thompson and Hunter Maldonado have been in Laramie since May. Everyone else has been in town since July, aside from the Pokes' two road games in Corvallis, Oregon and Orem, Utah.
“Some guys are going to get on planes," he said. "It’s worth the risk. If (the virus) happens to hit, they have it. Hopefully that’s not the case, but these guys have been away from their families so long in tough circumstances."
Omaha is bringing a 2-6 record with them to the Arena-Auditorium tonight.
Doesn't sound too impressive, but when you consider the teams they've played, you might change your tune a bit. The Mavericks have lost at Kansas and Creighton. Those are top-five programs. They also lost to Colorado in Boulder.
Omaha's victories over Middle Tennessee State and SIU Edwardsville have come by a combined three points.
The Mavs certainly don't want to get in a shootout with the Cowboys tonight. Through eight contests, they've averaged just 60 points per game. They haven't scored more than 50 in their last two games.
Marlin Ruffin is Omaha's lone double-digit scorer. The junior guard averages nearly 12 points per outing. The Mavs have received steady play from a pair of forwards, Matt Pile and Wanjang Tut. Both average more than eight points per game. Both shoot better than 66 percent from the field.
Here's all you need to know about tonight's matchup in Laramie:
WHO: Omaha (2-6) at Wyoming (5-1)
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. MST
WHERE: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie, Wyo.
RADIO: Wyoming affiliates
STREAMING: MWC Digital Network
BOX SCORE: gowyo.com
ROSTERS: Wyoming / Omaha
VEGAS ODDS: Wyoming -11.5, O/U 146
HISTORY: UW leads the all-time series 2-0 (Cowboys won the last meeting in Laramie in 2015, 76-75)
HEAD COACHES: Jeff Linder / Derrin Hansen