Facts and Factors
The Utah men’s basketball team (7-10, 0-3 MWC) takes on Wyoming (8-9, 1-2 MWC) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo. The game will be televised live on The Mtn.
The Utes are searching for their first Mountain West Conference victory and hope to snap a seven-game losing streak, their longest skid since the 1949-50 season.
Utah is also looking to bounce back from a 104-79 loss to No. 11 BYU in its last action. Despite the score, the Utes walked away with several positive performances to build on, including the eighth 20-point performance of the season from junior wing Will Clyburn, who led the Utes with 23 points. Freshman wing J.J. O’Brien contributed his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Junior center David Foster also pulled down a career-high 12 boards and chipped in a season-high six points, while junior guard Josh “Jiggy” Watkins dished out a career-high seven assists and scored 19 points.
Clyburn remains Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder at 19.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, ranking No. 2 and No. 3 in the MWC, respectively. Josh Watkins is leading the Utes in assists with 3.5 per game.
Wyoming is coming off a 78-60 road loss at TCU, which followed a 67-66 home win over New Mexico. The Cowboys’ offense is paced by Desmar Jackson’s 15.4 points per game, while Djibril Thiam is their leading rebounder at 5.4 boards per contest. JayDee Luster tops Wyoming with 3.4 assists per game.
All eight of the Cowboys’ victories this year have come at Arena-Auditorium, where they are 8-2 on the year and 1-0 in MWC games. The Utes are 1-5 on the road this year, including an 0-1 mark in league games.
Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year at the helm for the Utes, owns a 63-52 (.548) record. Wyoming is led by Heath Schroyer, also in his fourth season. Schroyer owns a 49-62 (.441) record as the Cowboys’ head coach.
These two teams could end up at the bottom of the conference by season’s end. Wyoming has lost to the likes of North Florida, UC Irvine, South Dakota, and Green Bay. Throw in conference losses to TCU and Colorado State and you’ve got a team that just isn’t very good.
The question is, is Utah any better? The Utes have better athletes, players, coaches, cheerleaders, and academics. Wyoming has Laramie. Why am I not at this game? I didn’t want to go to Laramie. Outside of Albuquerque, I’ve never been in a more depressing place. Teams are so depressed when they get there that they lose focus and drop games to an inferior opponent in Wyoming, that they should beat. Laramie eats at your mind and eats at your soul.
The Cowboys aren’t going to score a ton of points, but they aren’t going to give up a ton either. The team defense was been stellar so far on the year yielding under 65 points per game. The Utes will probably need to top that number to get the W.
Desmar Jackson is the main man for the Cowboys, leading the team at over 15 points per game. He’s their all everything, averaging almost 5 rebounds, over 2 assists, 2 steals, and a half a block per game. He’s versatile and athletic and his play will go a long ways towards determining who wins this game.
Outside of Jackson the Cowboys get most of their scoring from the inside duo of Djibril Thiam and Amath M’Baye who combine for almost 22 points and 10 and a half boards per game.
Wyoming can’t shoot the three, coming in at just over 29% on the season. Utah has to keep them at a similar number.
Pressure. Wyoming is going to apply a lot of pressure to the Utes when they have the ball, trying to do what they do best defensively which is force turnovers. The Cowboys 7.8 steals per game is a tremendous number.
Utah needs to protect the ball. After the 22 turnover debacle against BYU, this team needs a lot of improvement in that area. Much of that falls on Will Clyburn who has been pressing and trying to do too much at times.
Jiggy Watkins has played well in the last games against SDSU and BYU and will need to be at the top of his game for Utah to right the ship. Keeping himself, and his team under control, and letting their overall athleticism win out over an inferior group of players at Wyoming, will be a key. Don’t press. Don’t force shots. Jiggy needs to maintain that overall team control on the court.
If this game was at the Huntsman Center, I’d have no trouble taking the Utes, but this game is in Laramie. Wyoming plays well at home, including an impressive win over New Mexico. Utah isn’t playing well regardless of where the game is. Who would have thought that a Utah basketball team would ever be an underdog against Wyoming? I just can’t bring myself to pick this team to win right now. The streak continues.
Wyoming 65 Utah 63