What is the key to turning around Wyoming’s basketball season?
LARAMIE -- Adjustment is the name of the game.
It's also at the top of Jeff Linder's to-do list as the Cowboys prepare to tackle an upcoming non-conference slate that features the likes of Grand Canyon, Dayton, Saint Mary's and Wednesday's opponent, Santa Clara.
"We've got a tough week in front of us -- got a tough stretch," Wyoming's third-year head coach said. "I mean, we scheduled the non-conference schedule, hoping that we had our full team intact."
That isn't happening.
Linder is hopeful that Hunter Maldonado can return to the lineup tomorrow in Salt Lake City after suffering a head injury against Boston College in the final game of the Paradise Jam. Graham Ike, who suffered a lower-leg injury before the start of the season, likely won't make his return to the hardwood until "sometime in January," Linder added.
"It's tough when you have 40 points out of the game," said Linder, referring to missing the two players above in that 59-48 setback against the Eagles in St. Thomas. "I don't care who you are, what team you are, if you have your two first-team all-league guys out, it makes it hard."
So, what is the key to turning this thing around?
Linder said shortening his bench could be a start.
"It's really trying to find those seven or eight guys," Linder said, adding that he will play whatever rotation can hit shots and give the team its best chance to win games. "Then those guys can kind of really learn just through playing and the time they get on the floor.
"I think we're getting closer to that, but just with the injuries, it's made it really hard to kind of figure some things out."
Does this team need a vocal leader without Ike on the court?
"We talk about communication in our program every day and that's something that we actually hold them accountable to is their communication," Linder said. "I think for this group, right now, it definitely can't just be Maldo."
Linder said Hunter Thompson has also stepped up in that regard. Making winning plays and averaging nearly seven points a game hasn't hurt the super senior's cause, either.
Noah Reynolds, Linder said, is a player he is looking for to pick up the pace in that category. The sophomore guard is sharing time at the point with newcomer Ethan Anderson, averaging just 15.5 minutes a night. Reynolds is netting nearly eight points per outing. He is also connecting on 83.3% of his free throws. Anderson is scoring nearly nine points per game, but the USC transfer is hitting just 34.8% of his shots from the charity stripe.
"Noah was one of our better players over the course of the summer," Linder said. "We need him to kind of get back into a groove."
Linder also pointed out Brendan Wenzel as being a guy who could help the Pokes stay afloat without their big man in the paint.
"We need some other guys to step up, definitely," he added. "Once guys know that, hey, this is who's going to be on the floor, this is what it is, and hopefully they will kind of see that grow."
Wyoming (3-3) and Santa Clara (5-2) are scheduled to tipoff Wednesday at 2 p.m. Mountain Time from Salt Lake Community College. The contest will be streamed on FLOSports.
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