Tuck’s Takes: Defense Falters as Pokes Drop Eighth Straight
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- Beau Becker was just 7-of-21 from beyond the arc heading into Tuesday night.
If you follow this Wyoming team, you know the best remedy for getting hot is, well, playing this Wyoming team.
The sophomore from Dallas drained 5-of-10 attempts from deep Tuesday night, taking full advantage of a Cowboys' makeshift front court, consisting of Nate Barnhart and Caden Powell. Those guys didn't follow Becker out to the perimeter. He made them pay, netting 20 of his career-high 23 points in the second half of Air Force's 82-74 victory over the Cowboys.
Jeff Linder said that was all part of the scout.
Just like it was when UW allowed Boise State big man Naje Smith to sink four threes in last Saturday's lopsided loss to the Broncos.
"Give him credit, he made some shots," Wyoming's third-year head coach said, referring to Becker's coming-out party. "We had to give up something and five-man made a few of those threes, but we were always in striking distance."
Barnhart, who netted 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field in his first-collegiate start, was the one tasked with guarding Becker.
It was just as hard to watch those shots go in for him as it was you.
"Yeah, it's tough to see that, but I trust (assistant coach Sundance) Wicks," he said. "I trust the coaches with their scouts. So, they're telling me stick with the game plan. So I trust them. I have all faith in them."
If you're keeping track at home, this losing streak has now reached eight. That kind of skid hasn't been seen around these parts since Allen Edwards' 2019-20 squad went 0-for-January.
Did I mention Wyoming had a 12-point lead in this one?
Did I mention Air Force started this game 3-of-17 from the field and missed 11 consecutive 3-pointers?
Did I mention Noah Reynolds netted 26 points and pulled down a team-high six rebounds?
Did I mention the visitors scored their first 16 points of the night in the paint?
Did I mention Xavier DuSell held the Falcons' leading scorer, Jake Heidbreder scoreless through the first 25 minutes of this game?
How on earth did Linder's squad manage to squander this one? Giving up 10 triples didn't help. Neither did barely scraping out the rebounding advantage against a much-smaller squad, 27-25. Eleven turnovers played a role. So did bench points. Air Force took that stat, 25-3.
Effort on the defensive end is what Linder called to the carpet after this one. Wyoming allowed the Cadets to shoot better than 65% for the field over the final 20 minutes. They simply couldn't get a stop.
"It really came down to just being tough enough to sit down and guard the ball," Linder said.
Ethan Anderson was blunt when asked about this second-half collapse -- he was tired. The junior point guard from Los Angeles scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. The telling stat was in the minute's column: 33.
"Me personally, I was exhausted," he said postgame. "I'll say that, but, I mean, Air Force has a really good offense and it's designed to get you tired. They use the entire shot clock. When you have six, seven guys, it's bound to happen.
"You know, we're missing (Hunter) Maldonado and Graham (Ike). That's Wyoming basketball right there in a nutshell."
You're tired of hearing it. The coaches and players are tired of talking about it. Better yet, they're sick of it happening.
This team is decimated. There's no other way to put it.
Maldonado missed this game, in his hometown, with a rib injury, the school confirmed Tuesday night. Ike, as you are well aware, is on the shelf for the foreseeable future with an undisclosed lower right-leg injury. Kenny Foster is likely done for the season with a back issue, Hunter Thompson has mononucleosis and Brendan Wenzel is out with a knee injury.
This was Linder's 13th different lineup in 18 games.
You might be wondering, why would a scouting report call for you to leave a guy wide open on the outside. All of that carnage above tells the tale. Linder is looking to preserve his already-taxed roster. Not to mention Becker isn't supposed to do things like that.
While Linder set his sights on the defense in this one, and rightfully so. Wyoming was a "Top-75" team in the country on the defensive end of the court last season. Now, Linder said they are probably sitting in the 300's.
Close -- No. 293.
The Cowboys are allowing the opposition to shoot better than 45% from the field. That number went up after this one. The Falcons shot 53%.
Linder knows, though, he's simply working with a skeleton crew.
"I mean, you can't do anything about it," Linder said. "Nobody cares. There's no other team in the country that every week you've got a completely different team. You take Nikola Jokić off the Nuggets, they ain't winning games. That's just the bottom line."
Wyoming (5-13, 0-5) will host Border War rival Colorado State (10-9, 2-4) Saturday inside the Arena-Auditorium. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be televised on FS1.
From Bison to Triceratops - All of Wyoming's Official Things
- From Bison to Triceratops - All of Wyoming's Official Things