Linder and Co. looking for more offense from role players
LARAMIE -- It's no secret, Wyoming needs more offensive production from any and everyone not named Hunter Maldonado or Graham Ike.
In two games last week, the Cowboys' role players accounted for just 50 of the team's 141 points. Twenty-three alone came from Jeremiah Oden (14) and Brendan Wenzel (9) in a 75-66 setback in Albuquerque.
Maldonado and Ike accounted for 56 of Wyoming's points in a 75-67 victory over Air Force last Saturday in Laramie.
The Pokes' top outside threats -- Drake Jeffries, Xavier DuSell and Wenzel -- combined to hit 6-of-28 3-pointers during that time frame, three of which came from Wenzel against the Lobos.
Hunter Thompson netted four points and Noah Reynolds was held off the scoresheet in both outings.
That won't get it done, especially with tilts against Colorado State, San Diego State and UNLV on the horizon.
"I challenged them yesterday before practice," Wyoming's second-year head coach Jeff Linder said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "They say they want to be pros and I'm like, well, listen, last time I checked, if you know your role is to be a shooter when you're playing in the NBA or overseas, you're not going to be touching the ball very many times during the course of the game.
"I mean, the guys that are pros and not Joe's are guys that aren't sitting on their couch or playing in the rec league or at the YMCA, they're guys that when they get the opportunity to make shots, they make shots."
Jeffries, a junior guard from Illinois, has proven to be one of the top 3-point shooters in the nation this season. He was in the top five in field-goal percentage from deep after sinking 5-of-9 triples in an 84-78 overtime win over CSU in late January.
Since, Jeffries has dropped to No. 14 at 42.8% after drilling just six of his last 35 attempts.
"Drake had this a little bit last year," Linder said. "It was a little bit earlier on where he wasn't making shots. But you know, eventually he got out of that. Those guys are too good of shooters."
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DuSell has struggled offensively since straining his hamstring in a last-second road win over Utah State in mid-January. The 6-foot-4 freshman guard missed four games and has been coming off the bench ever since.
DuSell has also hit just six 3-pointers on 25 attempts since that victory in Logan.
Wenzel, who replaced DuSell in the starting lineup, has been the most consistent of this trio, yet has also finished in single-digit scoring in eight of the Cowboys last nine outings.
Linder isn't harboring a national secret -- the ball, roughly 90-plus percent of the time, is going to No. 24 and 33. Ike leads the nation in offensive possessions, averaging 28-to-32 per game.
Both net near 20 points an outing.
However, that doesn't mean they can do this alone. We saw that last Tuesday inside The Pit.
"It's tough. At times, you may be a little bit like a pinch hitter in baseball where you have to step in and you have to find a way to make a contribution," he said. "... Luckily, the way we're built, we don't have to make a bunch of threes to stay in games. That's the beauty of it is that we are an inside-out team. If we can start making a few more threes than it just makes us that much harder to guard."
As a team, Wyoming is shooting just under 28% from beyond the arc over the last six games. That's a paltry 32-of-116.
"You know, it's not from those guys not putting in the effort. Those guys are in the gym, they're getting shots," Linder said. "... I'm not worried about those guys. They're really good shooters and you know they're going to step up and they're going to make shots in due time -- I hope."
Wyoming (22-4, 11-2) will travel to Fort Collins Wednesday night to take on Border War rival Colorado State (21-4, 11-4). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
By the way, the Rams are ranked 184th in the nation in 3-point field-goal defense, allowing the opposition to shoot 33.6% from deep.