Cougars Not Looking Past Cowboys

The Wyoming Cowboys are 9-17 overall and only 2-10 in the MWC. That places them in second-to-last place. The question is, could this be a trap game for BYU? The Cougars definitely don't think so.

The Cougars are heading into the final stretch of the basketball season. It can be difficult at times to be motivated and energized to play an opponent that might not pose much of a challenge, at least judging by their record. The Cougars, however, feel otherwise.

"I don't think so, especially when it's in the Mountain West and right now we're trying to win the championship," said Noah Hartsock. "We're focused on each game individually and so we have to go out and take care of business and shine. If we do that we can become champions."

"I think you have to create your own energy, just because there's not going to be as many people there as the Pit," Jimmer Fredette said. "It's going to be the same type of game and so we have to go out there and create our own energy and be just as intense as the other games. If you're not, then they're going to jump all over you and that's what I think some teams have done up there, so we have to be careful of that and be aggressive from the beginning."

Coach Rose feels the Cougars will have to play with energy the entire game rather than just at times.

"One thing that is evident with this Wyoming team is they are playing really hard," said Coach Rose. "Sometimes with teams that are struggling they'll play in spurts, but [Coach Schroyer has] got his team playing really hard. They're battling and they're playing [and] giving a great effort, so it's going to be a 40-minute game and it won't be a situation where you play well for 10-to-15 minutes and then you coast through."

Despite struggling in conference play, the Cowboys have beaten San Diego State (85-83), as well as Utah (75-69), a team that gave BYU fits at the Marriott Center on January 30. So, the Cougars don't want to underestimate the Cowboys and fall into the same trap other teams might have.

"They're a tough team, especially at their place," said Fredette. "They've got some good wins up there against San Diego State and Utah and played really well in those games. They're going to be ready for us. Obviously, our head coaches are very, very good friends and so they want to beat each other for sure, and that's something that's great about this game. We have to be up for it and we have to be ready to go. They're going to be a tough opponent so we have to be ready."

"Wyoming is a really good team even though they've been down a little bit," said Hartsock. "When they play at home they keep everything close and that gives them a chance to win. They play hard and are pretty scrappy right now.

"It's a unique experience. I played up there last year and there wasn't much in the city, but the arena was intense and they play well at home. So you know it's going to be a good challenge and a good game overall."

As the No. 14 Cougars head into Laramie for their 28th game of the season, they're expecting some unique challenges.

"They run a unique defense and will change things up every once in a while," Hartsock said. "Sometimes they'll trap Jimmer and sometimes they'll play another tough so they can't catch the ball. You just have to be aware and as an offense you just have to look for different options."

"Wyoming's different," said Coach Rose. "They extend their defense 94 feet and are going to try and trap you at certain times and take you out of what you really like to do offensively. What we have to do is be aware of what they're doing and what's available and trust your teammates, [like] hitting open guys for shots."

Fredette has experienced the type of defensive pressure the Cowboys will employ, and that wasn't just during the last game against Wyoming.

"They bring the pressure much like UNLV and New Mexico, I think even more so in that they like to pressure full court," said Fredette. "UNLV does that some but New Mexico doesn't pressure for the entire court, but in Laramie they like to try and get their turnovers and try to play full-court as much as they can. JayDee Luster does a good job on the ball and tries to get as many turnovers as he can, so it really becomes kind of a helter-skelter defense."

The Cowboys try to create offense through tough defense. When it comes to rebounding, one Cowboy stands out: Adam Waddell. He will be counted on to clear the boards and get the Cowboy offense into quick transition.

"On top of that they're very physical and Waddell is a big, physical guy inside and so are their other guys," said Fredette. "They like to play physical in the middle and that's what they try to do and hang their hat on: playing tough defense and trying to get out in transition and run is what they try to do mostly. That's what they do really well and their coaches stress it."

"They're also a very good rebounding team and have some good length inside with Waddell - who leads the Cowboys in rebounds with 143 total - and [Djibril] Thiam and [Amath] M'Baye," said Hartsock. "I mean, they're really long and athletic and a great free-throw team and get to the foul line. I think Coach Rose said they're second in the nation in free throws made so far."

The Cougars want to finish up strong in their next five games to win the conference and gain a head of steam heading into the Mountain West Conference Tournament and beyond.

"It's very, very important to play your ball as things start winding down," said Fredette. "You want to go out and play your best ball always and try to get the best seed for the conference tournament to help you out. We want to win the conference and get that going into tournament time, and then hopefully do well there heading into the NCAA tournament. Right now momentum plays a big part and we want to get that going, so playing well heading into the tournaments is very important."


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