Undermanned Pokes face tall task in shutting down Justin Bean
LARAMIE -- Wyoming hasn't played a basketball game in 21 days.
That will change tonight inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, where the Cowboys take on the Aggies.
Jeff Linder called this the toughest stretch of his coaching career, watching COVID-19 ravish his lineup over the past three weeks, forcing the postponement of four straight games to begin league play.
Just to add some additional adversity, UW will also be without guards Kenny Foster and Noah Reynolds, according to a source familiar with the situation.
That's not all.
Did we mention the Cowboys have lost their last six against Utah State (10-6, 1-2) and haven't won a road game in the series since 2018?
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Wyoming also gets to deal with the Mountain West's third-leading scorer, Justin Bean, who is averaging 19.6 points per game and shooting 63% from the field.
"He's going to make some plays. He's going to make some shots," Linder said of the Aggies' 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward. "But, you know, the biggest thing with him is the winning plays, the winning-effort plays that he makes, the second-chance opportunities, the offensive rebounding. Those are the things that separate him."
The undermanned visitors are facing a senior who has scored in double figures in every game but one this season. Bean netted a season-high 33 points in an overtime victory over Penn in late November. In a win over New Mexico last Saturday in The Pit, Bean dropped 23 points and added 11 rebounds.
Linder joked during his weekly press conference that the good news this week is he didn't watch film of former Utah State center Neemias Queta blocking "80 million shots" like in year's past. He is now a member of the Sacramento Kings.
But Linder also knows the Cowboys (11-2) have their hands plenty full with Bean.
In six previous meetings against the Cowboys, the Oklahoma product has averaged just 9.3 points per outing to go along with nearly eight boards. Those numbers can be a bit deceptive. Over the last three tilts with the Pokes, Bean has netted nearly 17 points and better than 11 rebounds.
"You got to match his effort and there's not a lot of guys that can do that," Linder said. "Hopefully, in our case, with some guys coming back -- we haven't been doing much -- hopefully we don't see that and hopefully not impacting us late in the game.
"His effort and his ability to compete on every single possession at a really high level is what really makes him a good player. The fact that he's making shots now, I mean, that's that's just an added bonus."
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Stadium.