Williams vs. Sherfield matchup could decide series
LARAMIE -- Just nine days ago, Marcus Williams sat on the home bench inside the Arena-Auditorium while Wyoming's new-look starting five took the floor for the second game of a two-game set against Boise State.
He wasn't injured. The true freshman was being disciplined.
Wyoming's first-year head coach Jeff Linder said a "come-to-Jesus" film session led to the decision to sit his leading scorer. The issue wasn't on the offensive end, it was the effort on defense, or lack thereof.
Williams wasn't the only one slacking on that end of the floor during an 83-60 lopsided loss to the Broncos, but Linder -- and Williams -- have bigger aspirations for the rookie.
"I would be doing a disservice to him and his future if I said, ‘hey, this is OK,’" Linder said last week. "It’s not OK. His effort wasn’t OK.”
That all changed that night. Williams came off the bench less than three minutes into the game. His dedication on that side of the ball was obvious immediately. He swam around screens and glued himself to anyone wearing orange.
Nothing changed in the following two-game series with Air Force, either.
"I think Marcus has done a much better job," Linder said Thursday during his weekly press conference. "I told him, you're gonna have a challenge here this weekend."
That's because the Texas product will be lined up against Grant Sherfield.
Nevada's sophomore guard is the third-leading scorer in the Mountain West, averaging 18.7 points per game. Sherfield has netted 20-plus points in six consecutive games, including a 28-point outburst against New Mexico on New Years' Eve.
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Sherfield has been dynamic from beyond the arc and inside the paint. He leads the Wolf Pack in assists with nearly six per outing. That's the second-best mark in the league.
As Sherfield goes so do the Wolf Pack.
"He's a guy where if you relax, I mean, he's going to make you pay," Linder said. "So, it's not it's not a matter of Marcus not being able to do it, it's just a matter of understanding that you have to do it every single possession."
Sherfield needs to worry about Williams, too.
The Pokes' point man is averaging 16.3 points per game and is hitting nearly 50% of his shots from the field. Williams has also been dangerous from the outside, sinking 17 triples.
Williams scored 15 points in a loss at Air Force last Saturday. He followed that up with a 10-point outing in Colorado Springs two nights later. That was a career low for the freshman.
Linder isn't concerned. Playing the Falcons takes a whole different kind of effort on both sides of the ball. This week has been dedicated to regaining a rhythm and flow back to the Cowboys' offense.
That should only help Williams.
"Knowing that Nevada is a good defensive team, if we don't attack them the right way, you know, they can cause a lot of problems," Linder said.
Something else that could help Williams is the debut of fellow freshman Graham Ike. The 6-foot-9 Colorado product has yet to play this season as he recovered from offseason ACL surgery. That could change Friday or Sunday, according to Linder.
Xavier DuSell has also taken some of the scoring load off of Williams as of late. The freshman from Arizona is coming off a 19-point performance against the Falcons. That's a career night for the guard.
Linder knows Sherfield makes a living coming off ball screens. He said up to 50 a night, in fact. If the Cowboys can limit that, Linder knows that will impact Steve Alford's entire game plan.
"He's the guy that kind of makes the makes the whole deal go," Linder said. "I mean, he's the one that's trying to create the advantage."
Williams, no doubt, is that guy for the Cowboys, too.
Wyoming (8-5, 2-4) and Nevada (10-5, 5-3) will tipoff Friday at 6 p.m. MST from Laramie.