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UW Cowboys Host Western Michigan Tonight – Matchup Breakdown

After an exciting victory in the first round, the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team continues postseason play on Monday when the Cowboys host Western Michigan for the quarterfinals of the CBI presented by Buick. The Pokes (20-13) used a buzzer-beating three to down Lehigh, 67-66, at home last Tuesday, while the Broncos (21-12) earned a dramatic 72-71 overtime win over North Dakota State at home last Wednesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium, where Wyoming has won 23 consecutive non-conference games dating back to 2010.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or online at GoWYO.com. Fans can follow live stats and live audio of the game through the men’s basketball Gameday Central page on the website. The contest will also be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised by AXS TV (DirecTV: 340; DISH Network: 362). Check your cable or satellite provider for channel info.

A Look at the Matchup

Wyoming’s victory over Lehigh moved the Pokes to 20-13 overall on the season for the 20th 20-win season in the 108-year history of the program and first time with back-to-back 20-win seasons in 10 years. The Pokes are in the CBI quarterfinals for a second-straight season thanks to their dramatic win over the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh led by one, 36-35, at halftime and extended the lead to as many as seven with just over five minutes to go. Wyoming closed the game on a 10-2 run, though, which included a buzzer-beating three for the victory. The Cowboys shot 58 percent (11-of-19) beyond the arc, their second-highest total of the season, and 54 percent (25-of-46) from the field. UW’s defense has been its strength this season, allowing just 58.6 points per game for first in the MW and 23rd in the NCAA, but the Cowboys have allowed more than 70 in four of their last eight games. Four of those opponents have also shot over 50 percent from the field, including two better than 60 percent. The Pokes have forced foes off the three-point line, though, ranking second in the league during MW play in three-point defense at 28.6. Offensively, Wyoming was eighth in the MW in points at 60.6 per game. UW’s 6.6 threes per game were third in the MW, though. The Cowboys led the league in turnover margin at plus 2.1, as their 11.2 turnovers per game rank 32nd in the NCAA. UW’s 15.3 personal fouls per game are 28th in the nation.

Head coach Steve Hawkins and Western Michigan are in their first CBI this season in Hawkins’ 10th year at the helm. The Broncos won their seventh outright MAC West division title in 2013 with a 21-12 overall mark and 10-6 in conference play, but fell in the semifinals of the MAC tournament to NIT participant Ohio. WMU is 3-3 in its last six contests and 6-9 on the road this season. The Broncos rank in the middle of the MAC in most statistical categories. On the offensive end, WMU averages 67.2 points for sixth in the conference on 43 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Broncos rebound well, though, as their plus 5.7 rebounding margin leads the MAC and ranks 26th in the NCAA. WMU ranks second in the conference in offensive rebounds (36.8) and first in defensive rebounds (31.2). The Broncos allow 63.9 points per game for fifth in the MAC, but rank third in the conference and 72nd in the nation in field goal defense as opponents shoot 40 percent. WMU gives up 36 percent beyond the arc. The Broncos have a minus 1.7 turnover margin.

Each Team’s Leaders

Senior guard Derrious Gilmore and sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. have carried the load for the Cowboys the last four games, as they scored 25 and 20, respectively, against Lehigh. The duo has combined for 52 percent of Wyoming’s points over that span and both have scored in double figures in each game. Gilmore averages 12.4 points and a team-high 2.9 assists, as he hit a career-high six threes against Lehigh and hits 37 percent beyond the arc. Nance adds 10.4 points and 6.9 rebounds, but both averages have gone up in UW’s six tournament games this season. Senior forward Leonard Washington paces the Pokes at 12.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.4 steals, but has been battling ankle and back injuries the past month. He started against Lehigh, but played just two minutes. Freshman guard Josh Adams adds 6.5 points and 1.4 rebounds, but is known for making big plays at big times, including assists on UW’s final two baskets against Lehigh. Sophomore guard Riley Grabau is second on the team at 2.6 assists per game to go with 5.7 points. Junior guard Nathan Sobey was UW’s other scorer in double figures against Lehigh with 12 points, including the game-winning three.

Redshirt junior center Shayne Whittington paces Western Michigan at 13.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, as he was named to the All-MAC Second Team. His 11 double-doubles on the season led the conference and ranked 40th in the NCAA. Forward Darius Paul was named the MAC Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, while senior forward Nate Hutcheson was Honorable Mention All-MAC with 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. Sophomore guard Austin Richie’s 2.9 assists rank eighth in the MAC and he adds 6.0 points. Senior guard Brandon Pokley adds 8.8 points and 2.5 rebounds thanks to 39 percent beyond the arc, which ranks eighth in the MAC. Whittington paced four Broncos in double figures against NDSU with 18 points, as Pokley added 15.

About the Series

Monday is the first meeting between Wyoming and Western Michigan. (gowyo.com)

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