Tuck’s 10 takes: No Armus? Good news. Or so we thought
BOISE, Idaho -- Back-to-back Wyoming possessions.
Back-to-back Mladen Armus fouls.
With 17:49 left in the second half, Boise State's 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward was forced to the sideline after committing his fourth foul of the night. That could only mean good news for the visitors. Armus, as always, was his powerful self around the rim when he was on the court, netting eight points, pulling down five rebounds and finishing with two blocked shots.
He rocked the rim with a pair of dunks and even rejected a Graham Ike shot attempt in the first half.
He couldn't do any of that from the bench.
Time for Ike to get to work, right? Wrong.
After scoring a game-high 12 points in the first half, a combination of Tyson Degenhart, Abu Kigab and Naje Smith held Wyoming's big man in check, allowing Ike to net just seven points over the final 20 minutes of the Broncos 65-62 victory over the Cowboys Tuesday night inside ExtraMile Arena in Boise.
Leon Rice's team claimed its 13th straight win and are now the lone unbeaten team in the Mountain West Conference standings. Wyoming falls to 15-3 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Boise State has now beaten the Cowboys eight straight times.
So, my big question is, why on earth wasn't Ike more involved in the offense late in this one?
"Boise did a good job in terms of making it difficult to get in there," UW's second-year head coach Jeff Linder said postgame. "They started choking in on and doubling on the posts some. So, it was just one of those deals where at halftime we knew that it wasn't necessarily going to be a game where we just pumped it inside to Graham or (Hunter) Maldonado."
Ike attempted just six shots in the final frame and got to the foul line only once. His last bucket came with 11:07 remaining. His last shot came at the 9:56 mark.
Double teams are nothing new for Ike. Linder just said Saturday the Colorado product has faced nothing but multiple defenders on every play from the summer until now because when they don't "he just demoralizes our post players in practice because he scores every single time down."
Why didn't that happen with more regularity tonight?
"I mean, every time down the floor you try to put the ball in in the guy's hands you feel like can make the play," Linder continued. "But, you know, maybe we should have got the ball in there a couple more times."
The Cowboys shot 54.5% from the field in the second half, but went on a late offense drought that lasted well over 2:30. A barrage of miscues, including a 10-second violation on freshman guard Noah Reynolds didn't help matters.
Brendan Wenzel and Jeremiah Oden missed open threes with a chance to tie it late. Drake Jeffries missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, too.
"I thought we got really good shots there late in the game," Linder added. "It's just unfortunate they didn't go in."
True, but wouldn't you rather go down with high-percentage shots in the paint from Ike?
Here are some more thoughts from the Cowboys first conference loss:
* Wenzel's night started with three quick turnovers. He also got hit with a traveling call. He was yanked for Reynolds with the Pokes trailing 16-12 midway through the first half. The San Antonio native scored one bucket in the first 20 minutes. That came on a breakaway dunk. Surely, this would just be an off-night for the 6-foot-7, 203-pound sophomore. Not quite. Wenzel netted five more points in the second half on 2-of-3 shooting. What was most impressive late was the "winning plays" Linder always talks about. With the Cowboys attempting to mount a comeback, Wenzel took back-to-back charges. Maldonado turned that into a five-point swing and made it a two-point affair with 3:51 to go.
* It was a rough night for Boise State's leading scorer, Marcus Shaver Jr. Before leaving the game with an apparent left ankle injury with just 3:01 left in the first half, the senior from Phoenix was just 1-of-3 from the field (three points) in 17 minutes. Jeffries was glued to him most of the night, including blocking a 3-point attempt and forcing a shot-clock violation. Shaver also received a face full of Ike's chest on a screen and laid on the floor for a handful of seconds as Reynolds drained a triple that gave the visitors a brief 17-16 lead. Shaver averages 13.2 points per night to go along with 4.1 rebounds and nearly two assists. He hit game-winning shots to knock off Utah State and San Diego State over the previous two outings for the Broncos. Shaver did play in the second half, scoring just two points on 1-of-3 shooting.
* Wyoming is going to watch the tape of this one and kick itself -- repeatedly. Linder would take this scenario 100 times over: Emmanuel Akot and Shaver scored just five points and Armus is on the pine for nearly the entire second half. Kigab had just a dozen points late in regulation before sinking six free throws before fouling out. The Broncos shot just 42.3% from the field and missed five clutch free throws. However, Boise State, without the services of three starters late in the first half, still extended its lead to six at the half. This is the one that got away.
* Kenny Foster saw his first action since a 77-57 victory over South Florida in Honolulu on Christmas Day. Fellow guard Xavier DuSell missed his third straight game and is still day to day with a hamstring strain. Foster played just three minutes and didn't register a stat. UW needs to get him going with the "NBA schedule" that awaits.
* Despite the loss, you have to give this young Wyoming team a ton of credit for the way it battled back in this one. Boise State jumped out to an 11-point lead early in the second half only to see the Cowboys close the gap and eventually take a 60-58 lead with just 2:46 to go. UW utilized a 16-4 run to get back on top. Unfortunately for the visitors, that's when the turnovers and missed shots took center stage. "I mean, that was a tough, tough, gritty college basketball game," Linder said. "As I said, this was going to be a 12-round heavyweight fight. We almost got knocked out there in the middle third. Then, in the ninth or 10th round, when there's about four-to-six minutes left and we got down 10, you know, I thought you really saw the resiliency and character of our team there after the way we responded to get ourselves back in the game, to tie the game and put ourselves in the lead."
* With winning, expectations just continue to rise. That's a good thing. In October, if I told you Wyoming would go toe-to-toe in that arena with that veteran team, would you have believed me? Old college basketball teams win. Boise State is old. The Cowboys and their senior-less roster gave them all they could handle. Did you think they would go in and beat Utah State in Logan? How about Nevada in Reno? Nothing is lost with this setback. In fact, that Broncos team will be inside the Arena-Auditorium next Thursday night. Already can't wait for that rematch.
* Reynolds' night will unfortunately be remembered for his backcourt blunder in the second half, but he gave a much-needed lift to the Cowboys in the first half, scoring five straight points to give his squad a 17-16 lead. On a night when secondary scoring was hard to come by, the freshman from Illinois gave the visitors a big lift off the bench.
* Another oddity tonight was the Cowboys taking just four shots from beyond the arc in the first half. They hit just one. That belonged to Reynolds. Why so few attempts in that category? Should they have shot more? The short answer is "yes." But it's more complicated than that. "If you look at it right now, I think Boise may be No. 1 or No. 2 in the country in terms of three point tries. So, I mean, that was a plan by them and that's why we needed to adjust a little bit in the second half." Wyoming did just that, sinking 5-of-12 from deep. Wyoming got some solid looks late, just couldn't connect.
* The focus has shifted to Air Force. The Cowboys travel to Colorado Springs for a 4 p.m. tipoff Friday afternoon inside Clune Arena. Thought this was a great quote from Linder after this one. "We'll learn from this," he said. "Probably, you know, too many empty possessions on the offensive end. That ultimately was kind of the death by 1,000 paper cuts, but I was really, really proud of our guys' effort. To sit there and fight tooth and nail with the other undefeated team in the league, you have to give Boise credit for finding a way to win."
* Wyoming scorers: Ike 19, Maldonado 17, Jeffries 12, Wenzel 7, Reynolds 5, Oden 2
* Mountain West men's basketball standings:
Boise State: 16-4, 7-0
Colorado State: 16-1, 6-1
Wyoming: 15-3, 4-1
San Diego State: 11-4, 3-1
Fresno State: 14-5, 4-2
Nevada: 9-8, 3-3
Air Force: 10-8, 3-4
UNLV: 11-9, 3-4
Utah State: 10-9, 1-5
San Jose State: 7-11, 0-6
New Mexico: 7-13, 0-7