Tuck’s Take: This Wyoming Backcourt Could Be Dynamic
LARAMIE -- Jeff Linder has stated time and again this mishmash of talent he has compiled on this new-look Wyoming roster could surprise some teams this season.
If the starting backcourt performs the way it did in Tuesday night's opener, he might be right.
Sam Griffin and Akuel Kot combined for 44 points on 14-of-19 shooting in an easy 104-56 victory over Northern New Mexico College inside the Arena-Auditorium. That duo also went 10-of-11 at the stripe and connected on six triples on nine attempts.
Can Griffin and Kot pull off this kind of performance on a nightly basis against Mountain West opponents?
"Yeah, I mean, obviously we need them to do that," Linder said postgame. "Akuel averaged 25 a game last year and, as people can see, I always say, he's a professional scorer ... Sam, the same deal. Sam has scored a lot of points in his college career.
"... When you have two guys like that, who can really score the basketball, it just helps create a lot of other things."
Griffin, aided by an early 7-0 run, finished with a game-high 23 points on the night. The Tulsa transfer showed off his quick first step and finishing abilities around the rim. He also took high-percentage shots from the outside, drilling all five of his 3-point attempts. Griffin was also 8-of-9 from the field.
An early assist on a dish to a seemingly blanketed Cam Manyawu also demonstrated his court vision. A full-court heave to the 6-foot-9 true freshman that culminated in an easy lay in did, too.
It's not hard to see why he led the Golden Hurricane in scoring last season with more than 15 points a night. Or the fact he had 244 career triples entering this one.
He makes it all look really easy, too.
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"Of course, great," Griffin joked when asked what a 48-point victory in his first game in a Wyoming uniform felt like. "Our coach is probably happy with that. I know he's more happy with the defense, for sure."
The Cowboys limited Northern New Mexico to just 33% shooting on the night. The visitors also handed over 20 turnovers and were outscored in the paint, 42-18.
That team has most-definitely had its fill of Kot.
In four career meetings, the senior has netted 80 points, 21 of which came in his Wyoming debut. Kot joked that a few of his former Fort Lewis College teammates texted him saying the Eagles had to be tired of playing the Amarillo, Texas product.
Tonight he connected on 6-of-10 shots from the floor and drilled all eight of his free-throw attempts.
Kot's bag of tricks included smooth drives to the bucket, turnaround mid-range jumpers and an eye for the open guy. He capped his night with a team-best six assists.
How on earth did this guy last four seasons at the Division-II level?
It's certainly easy to see why he was a Division-II All-American and poured in a program record 801 points during his final season in Durango, Colo.
"Many people asked me if I was getting in the transfer portal toward the end of seasons," he said postgame. "I was too focused on what I had to do as a player and what I had to accomplish during that time."
Again, it all looked fairly effortless.
Here's a crazy question for the head coach: Could these guys be comparable to, oh, say, New Mexico's Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn, two sharp-shooting speedsters that averaged nearly 20 points per game last season?
"Obviously, time will tell, but, I mean, I think they're both really good players," he said. "Wherever he's playing professionally next year, (Kot's) going to score. I mean, that's just what he does. If you watch him run sprints, he might be the slowest guy. Then, he gets the ball in his hands and he's like Usain Bolt. I mean, it's just amazing how he moves with the ball.
"Sam is the same way ... With his ability to score, like I said, that floor just gets spaced out so much."
Here's to hoping.
It certainly was an impressive start.