MWC Hoops Roundup and Preview

Looking back and looking forward in the Mountain West...

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AIR FORCE
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GETTING INSIDE

With a week to prepare for UNLV and a road contest against unbeaten San Diego State looming, Air Force placed a lot of emphasis on upsetting the Rebels.

For 80 percent of the game, things went exceedingly well. The host Falcons had a late five-point lead and an UNLV squad playing without athletic guard Tre'Von Willis appeared destined to suffer a disappointing loss.

But then Air Force's discipline softened and its free-throw shooting collapsed. A 13-0 UNLV run erased Air Force's lead and the end result was a 64-52 loss for the Falcons.

That leaves the Falcons in need of a delivering one of the biggest upsets of the current college season when they face the Aztecs on Jan. 22 to get back to .500 in Mountain West Conference play.

Can you say opportunity missed?

Air Force forward Tom Fow can. He had missed just three free throws in 15 games but went 1-for-3 from the line.

Overall, the Falcons missed their last six free throws against the Rebels, who finished the game on a 19-2 run.

"We didn't finish," Fow said. "It was very tough being up most of the game and not being able to do what we do and close it out. I think a lot of us would like to have our free throws back."

On the other end of the spectrum, UNLV made six free throws in the final minute, furthering the pain for the Falcons.

"I thought we put ourselves in position to win the game," disappointed coach Jeff Reynolds said. "Some of the things we've been doing really well lately, we didn't do down the stretch."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Air Force went from first to third in the Mountain West in free-throw shooting when it went just 12-for-25 against UNLV. The Falcons are shooting 71.4 percent from the line.

--The 52 points against UNLV's were Air Force's fewest of the season. The previous low was 54 against Texas-El Paso.

--Air Force has outshot its opponents from the field in four consecutive games despite shooting just 42.5 percent against UNLV. The Rebels shot 40.8 percent.

BY THE NUMBERS: 36 -- 3-point baskets by Tom Fow, fifth-most in the Mountain West entering the week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're leading the league in free-throw shooting and we come in here and we want to get the line. Uncharacteristically, we missed them down the stretch." -- Coach Jeff Reynolds on Air Force missing its last six free throws and making just 12-for-25 in the loss to UNLV.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at San Diego State, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: Falcons facing huge frontcourt matchup trying to deal with scoring and rebounding prowess of San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas. Air Force's best chance at an upset is for Aztecs to be overconfident.

--vs. Wyoming, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: The Falcons are more disciplined than the Cowboys and have a similar number of scoring options. Evan Washington's play crucial to Air Force, as is holding Wyoming's Desmar Jackson to a pedestrian performance.

FUTURES MARKET: Center Taylor Broekhuis has made huge strides this season but faces a formidable task when the Falcons visit San Diego State on Wednesday. Air Force doesn't have enough big men to deal with the frontline of the Aztecs and it will take yeoman work from Broekhuis for the Falcons to have any chance at notching an upset. No matter what occurs, the game represents a growing opportunity for Broekhuis, who is third on the Falcons in scoring (11.1) and second in rebounding (4.9) entering the week.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore C Taylor Broekhuis injured an ankle during the UNLV contest and later returned. He leads the Falcons with a 56.4 field-goal percentage through Jan. 16.

--Sophomore G Mike Fitzgerald made six consecutive 3-point baskets after starting the campaign 1-for-14.

--Senior F Tom Fow scored 12 points against UNLV and has reached double figures in five of the last six games.

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BRIGHAM YOUNG
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GETTING INSIDE

Jimmer Fredette's National Player of the Year candidacy received a major big-game boost.

Fredette scored a season-high 47 points against Utah on Jan. 11 and the Brigham Young guard raised his scoring average to 26.1 points per game, tops in the nation.

Fredette and Connecticut's Kemba Walker are viewed as the top two candidates for player of the year honors. Walker has the exposure edge but Fredette has carved out an impressive national profile despite the Mountain West Conference's poor television contracts.

Fredette scored 32 first-half points against Utah, punctuating the performance by hitting a 40-foot buzzer-beater to end the half. He finished the 104-79 victory over the Utah with this shooting stat line: 16-of-28 from the field, 6-of-9 from 3-point range and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also had six assists.

The 47 points were two short of the career-high 49 he scored against Arizona last season. Fredette also became the fourth player in school history to top 2,000 career points. His current total is 2,001.

"It was one of those special nights," Fredette said. "Guys were getting me open and I was able to make some plays for myself. It was an exciting night."

The No. 10 Cougars plan to ride Fredette's magic as long as they can. BYU hosts TCU on Tuesday and visits Colorado State on Saturday as a Jan. 26 showdown with San Diego State looms on the horizon.

A 30-point plus game and an upset of the Aztecs would provide another boost to Fredette's player of the year hopes.

And Cougars coach Dave Rose knows the best thing to do is just sit back and enjoy the show.

"He's a special player," Rose said. "He's on a roll and playing with a lot of confidence."

NOTES, QUOTES

--BYU was 14-for-24 from 3-point range, falling one shy of the school-record 15 the Cougars made in a 2007 game against UNLV.

--The 104 points scored against Utah was the Cougars' second-best output of the season. BYU scored 109 points against Chicago State in November.

--BYU's victory over Utah game it a one-game edge in the 251-game series. The Cougars lead 126-125.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Number of career 30-point performances by Jimmer Fredette, third most in school history.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jackson's a great competitor. I have been grateful for him and it has been great to be a part of his career. It's a special thing for us to go through this senior year together." – BYU star Jimmer Fredette on backcourt mate Jackson Emery, who broke Danny Ainge's school career steals record against Utah.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. TCU, Jan. 18

KEY MATCHUPS: A well-rested Jimmer Fredette can expect to see Hank Thorns and Ronnie Moss each take turns at trying to slow him. The Horned Frogs should experience struggles trying to cope with Brandon Davies in the interior.

--at Colorado State, Jan. 21

KEY MATCHUPS: BYU's backcourt of Fredette and Jackson Emery combined for 61 points against UNLV's athletic backcourt. In other words, there's little chance that Colorado State's Dorian Green and Adam Nigon can limit the duo to a small enough number of points for the Rams to notch an upset.

FUTURES MARKET: BYU has been lacking production from its bench and the loss of forward Chris Collinsworth to a knee injury only increases the issue. Collinsworth was averaging 5.9 points and 5.6 rebounds despite shooting just 41 percent from the field but also was the Cougars' most productive reserve. Wing Charles Abouo (5.4) is shooting just 32.2 percent and has been a major disappointment. It will be no surprise to see BYU go with a really short bench in the two conference games against San Diego State and in the postseason unless some rapid improvements are made over the second half of the campaign.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior G Jimmer Fredette is one of 20 players still in the running for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top point guard. The list will be cut to 10 players in early February and to five finalists in early March.

--Senior G Jackson Emery has two steals against Utah to raise his career total to 197, breaking Danny Ainge's school record. Emery also scored 20 points to end the contest with 1,000 for his career, making him the 42nd player in school history to reach that level.

--Junior F Noah Hartsock has made at least one 3-pointer in six straight games and has hit 10 of his last 15 3-point attempts.

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COLORADO STATE
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GETTING INSIDE

It's a huge upcoming week for the upstart Colorado State Rams with UNLV and Brigham Young on the schedule.

The Rams haven't been able to defeat the upper-tier programs in the Mountain West and the back-to-back games against the Rebels and Cougars provides Colorado State two opportunities to display that it can be a factor in the conference race.

Colorado State defeated TCU 79-69 on Saturday but lost to New Mexico earlier in the week for the eighth consecutive time. This week's game at UNLV will be a telling contest for Colorado State. The Rams were humiliated 70-39 by the Rebels in last season's meeting in Las Vegas.

The Rams were 15-10 entering that game but looked more like a five-win team by the manner in which they were dismantled by the Rebels.

Colorado State trailed by as many as 27 points in the first half, when it made just 4-of-25 shots. The Rams finished the game with a woeful 22 percent shooting percentage.

The Rams had more turnovers (15) than made baskets (11) and didn't have a single player score in double figures.

The Jan. 22 contest against BYU also carries bad reminders for Colorado State. The Rams were swept by the Cougars last season, losing by 22 points at home and by 44 on the road.

At least Colorado State enters the swing on a good note after beating the Horned Frogs. The Rams shot 72.4 percent in the first half and led by double figures for a good portion of the contest.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Colorado State shot a season-high 60.4 percent against TCU, raising its percentage to a Mountain West-leading 49.4.

--The Rams have been abysmal from the free-throw line during three Mountain West games, shooting 53.1 percent. Colorado State was just 11-for-24 against TCU.

--Colorado State ranks next-to-last in the Mountain West in field-goal defense, allowing opponents to make 43.3 percent of their shots.

BY THE NUMBERS: 58.4 -- Andy Ogide's field-goal percentage, easily the top mark in the Mountain West entering the week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming off the bench has been a little hard to get used to but I talked to Coach (Tim) Miles and I think I just need to go out and play. I've been really tentative. I feel I am getting back into it. I just have to be aggressive."– Backup point guard Jesse Carr after having one of his best performances of the season in the victory over TCU.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at UNLV, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: Colorado State's frontcourt struggled to defend UNLV forward Chace Stanback last season and also struggled with Rebels' athleticism, particularly when routed by 31 points in Las Vegas.

--vs. Brigham Young, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Who wants to guard Jimmer Fredette? Dorian Green figures to take a run at slowing the BYU star. Colorado State needs 3-point shooting specialist Adam Nigon to be on his game.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore guard Jesse Carr appeared on his way to stardom two seasons ago when he was one of the top freshmen in the Mountain West. But a late-season pelvis injury that sidelined him for most of the next 20 months changed the shape of his career and he has struggled most of the season while serving in a backup role. But Carr played a solid 10 minutes against TCU, scoring 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, after failing to score a point in Colorado State's previous three games. Getting steady production from Carr would significantly bolster the Rams' bench.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior F Andy Ogide had 17 points and 11 rebounds against TCU for his fifth double-double of the season.

--Sophomore G Dorian Green is averaging 13 points and shooting 56 percent from the field in Colorado State's first three Mountain West games.

--Sophomore F Pierce Hornung is averaging 7.3 rebounds in conference play to raise his season average to 4.2.

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NEVADA-LAS VEGAS
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GETTING INSIDE

UNLV's opportunity to get back in the Mountain West Conference race has arrived.

The Rebels were 14-4 overall and 2-2 in league play after staving off Air Force's upset attempt. UNLV plays three of its next four games at home, beginning with a Jan. 19 game against Colorado State.

The Rebels also host New Mexico and Utah during the stretch, which includes a road tilt at Wyoming. Sweep the four games and the Feb. 5 visit to Brigham Young to open the second half of the conference slate becomes a crucial contest.

San Diego State and Brigham Young have separated themselves from the rest of the conference by getting off to undefeated starts during the first two weeks of league play. UNLV was expected to compete with the two teams for the conference title but dug itself a hole by losing to both the Aztecs and Cougars.

The Rebels averted disaster against Air Force by rallying from a five-point deficit with under eight minutes to play to post a 64-52 victory on Saturday. UNLV finished the contest on a 19-2 run.

Chace Stanback had 18 points and 11 rebounds while showing signs his month-long slump is nearing an end. UNLV certainly needed that type of effort with Tre'Von Willis left home to rest an ailing knee.

And every bit of Stanback's production was needed to thwart Air Force's upset bid.

"We expected them to come out and play their best game, and they did," Stanback said. "It was a tough game, a tough battle. This is something we can build on, and this can definitely help us carry some momentum into the next game."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Rebels are just 7-for-42 from 3-point range over their last two games, dropping their season percentage to 30.9, second-worst in the Mountain West.

--UNLV has scored just 113 points over its last two games, easily its lowest back-to-back outputs of the campaign. The Rebels average 73.1 points.

--The Rebels lead the Mountain West in field-goal percentage defense at 38.1 percent.

BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- Team-leading steals total by backup guard Justin Hawkins through Jan. 16.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were struggling to make things work and get our offense to click, but some guys stepped up to make plays and that picked up everybody else." -- Coach Lon Kruger on how the Rebels overcame a late deficit to rally past Air Force.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Colorado State, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: Slumping forward Chace Stanback averaged 15.5 points in two meetings against the Rams last season and poses matchup issues for the Rams. Tre'Von Willis has an athletic edge over all of Colorado State's guards.

--vs. New Mexico, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Look for New Mexico to attempt to feature Drew Gordon inside after the Rebels' struggles against San Diego State's frontcourt. Point guard Oscar Bellfield faces tough task of slowing New Mexico's Dairese Gary.

FUTURES MARKET: Derrick Jasper arrived at UNLV as a high-profile transfer from Kentucky but hasn't lived up to his billing. A midseason knee injury curtailed him last season and ineffective play has plagued him this season. Jasper is shooting just 41.9 percent from the field and averaging 7.8 points and those numbers have dropped to 25 percent shooting and a 3.3 average in the first four Mountain West games. Jasper did have 11 rebounds and six assists against Air Force and will need to continue to contribute in those areas while he looks to discover his wayward shot.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior G Tre'Von Willis missed the Air Force game after reinjuring his right knee against San Diego State on Jan. 12. Willis had minor surgery on the knee during the summer.

--Sophomore F Quintrell Thomas started 13 of UNLV's first 14 games but has played just 29 minutes total in four Mountain West games and isn't happy with his demotion.

--Sophomore G Anthony Marshall has made 80 percent of his two-point shot attempts (20-for-25) during the Rebels' four conference games.

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NEW MEXICO
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GETTING INSIDE

The transition to New Mexico's reliance on Drew Gordon is taking shape and the early returns are promising.

The UCLA transfer became eligible at the mid-semester break and has started the Lobos' last two games, averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds with back-to-back double-doubles against Colorado State and San Diego State.

Gordon will again be in the starting lineup when the Lobos continue Mountain West play at Utah on Jan. 19 and now appears to be a fixture after a dominating performance against San Diego State's stellar frontcourt.

Gordon scored a career-best 23 points and had 14 rebounds in the 87-77 loss to the undefeated Aztecs. Three nights earlier, he started for the first time since joining the Lobos and had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

"We know how good Drew Gordon is," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said after the San Diego State game. "He had a double-double against a top-ranked team. That's a special talent that he has."

Gordon transferred from UCLA because he didn't see eye-to-eye with Bruins coach Ben Howland, a stern taskmaster. In nine games with New Mexico, Gordon is averaging 11.4 points and 8.8 rebounds.

However, Gordon isn't thrilled that the Lobos find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West standings, but is excited over what may transpire later in the season.

"I think it was a good effort," Gordon said. "Some of our younger kids got intimidated playing such a high-ranked team in front of such a big crowd, but they did alright for their first time in this environment. We need to play harder and execute better. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of team we will have in the future."

NOTES, QUOTES

--New Mexico's 16-game homecourt winning streak ended with the 87-77 loss to San Diego State.

--The Lobos shot a season-low 37.9 percent against the Aztecs. New Mexico was 3-of-18 to start the contest.

--New Mexico committed a season-low five turnovers against San Diego State.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Largest deficit against San Diego State was New Mexico's biggest home deficit since trailing by 22 during a 70-49 loss to Brigham Young on Jan. 24, 2007.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he's doing great. He's giving us a presence inside and helping us with both rebounding and scoring. He's giving us what we need." -- New Mexico point guard Dairese Gary on the play of Drew Gordon.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Utah, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: New Mexico's frontcourt is much more athletic and Utah centers David Foster and Jason Washburn lack the foot speed to contend with the Lobos. The Lobos' have a backcourt edge, especially if guard Phillip McDonald is knocking down 3-pointers.

--at UNLV, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Playing the Rebels even in the backcourt is crucial since New Mexico has slight point guard edge with Dairese Gary against Oscar Bellfield. New Mexico has the better frontcourt with Drew Gordon now playing at an elite level.

FUTURES MARKET: New Mexico badly needs junior Phillip McDonald to discover consistency over the second half of the season. McDonald scored six points and missed all five field-goal attempts against San Diego State after matching his career-high with 27 points three nights earlier against Colorado State. McDonald averages 11.5 points but there's no telling what kind of game he'll have on any given night. This much is known though -- the Lobos are 10-0 when he scores in double figures. McDonald is shooting 41.8 percent from the field and just 30.6 percent from 3-point range.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior G Dairese Gary had seven assists against the Aztecs to raise his career total to 478, one shy of the Mountain West Conference record held by San Diego State's Richie Williams (2006-09).

--Freshman G Kendall Williams had 85 assists against just 32 turnovers entering the week, a 2.66 assists-to-turnover ratio that led the Mountain West Conference.

--Junior F A.J. Hardeman was displaced in the starting lineup by Drew Gordon after starting New Mexico's previous 51 games.

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SAN DIEGO STATE
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GETTING INSIDE

San Diego State's excursion into uncharted territory has led to another high-water mark: The Aztecs owned the longest winning streak in the nation at 19 games entering the week.

Heady stuff for a program that never has won an NCAA tournament game but it is the program's reality entering Wednesday's contest against Air Force. The game against the Falcons is followed by the much-anticipated showdown with Brigham Young and Jimmer Fredette on Jan. 26.

The Aztecs remained perfect by beating two of the conference's top programs in back-to-back games. San Diego State notched a midweek home victory over UNLV and then went to New Mexico and defeated the Lobos 87-77 on Saturday to snap New Mexico's 16-game homecourt winning streak.

San Diego State led by as many as 18 points while extending its school-record winning streak to 19 games -- a mark that is also the best in Mountain West Conference history.

Guard D.J. Gay scored a career-high 30 points and punctuated the victory with a 55-foot basket to beat the first-half buzzer. Gay made seven 3-pointers, two shy of the school record set by Tony Ross in 1986.

"He was fantastic," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "He plays with no fear, no agenda and could care less if he shoots it. He shot a lot (against New Mexico) and played with a lot of intelligence and all of us coaches and players feed off of it."

Forward Kawhi Leonard had another monster game with 19 points and 15 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season.

NOTES, QUOTES

--San Diego State made a season-high 13 3-point baskets against New Mexico, matching the most the Aztecs have ever made in a Mountain West Conference contest.

--The Aztecs are 4-2 in their last six visits to The Pit. Prior to that stretch, San Diego State was just 4-23 lifetime when playing at the raucous facility.

--San Diego State's 55-49 victory over UNLV on Jan. 12 was the 400th career victory for coach Steve Fisher. He has 216 victories in 12 seasons with the Aztecs.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 -- Number of consecutive San Diego State wins against unranked teams.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some people think we're still a joke. We hear comments all the time -- we shouldn't be in the Top 10, we shouldn't be ranked, but that just motivates us more, keeps us playing harder, keeps making us prove them wrong. We know that we belong here. For right now, we're not going anywhere." -- San Diego State forward Billy White on San Diego State's No. 6 national ranking.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Air Force, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: San Diego State's frontcourt of Malcolm Thomas, Kawhi Leonard and Billy White is too fearsome and too athletic for the Falcons to match up with.

FUTURES MARKET: Coach Steve Fisher regularly refers to guard D.J. Gay as the team's most important player and the Aztecs likely wouldn't be undefeated without the point guard's solid all-around play. Gay became the 26th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points with his 30-point contest against New Mexico and that game displayed several of the ways Gay helps the Aztecs. Not only did Gay make seven 3-point baskets but he committed just one turnover in 39 minutes and had four assists. Gay has committed one or fewer turnovers in six of San Diego State's last eight games.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior G D.J. Gay is one of 20 players still in the running for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top point guard. The list will be cut to 10 players in early February and to five finalists in early March.

--Sophomore F Kawhi Leonard had 32 rebounds in San Diego State's last two games and is averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds over the first four Mountain West contests.

--Senior C Malcolm Thomas matched a career-high with 16 rebounds against UNLV. Thomas averaged 11.8 rebounds in the first four conference games to raise his season average to 8.1.

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TCU
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GETTING INSIDE

Texas Christian will be hoping Jimmer Fredette isn't intent on delivering an encore to his memorable performance against Utah.

The Brigham Young star had 47 points against the Utes -- two shy of his career-best outing -- and the Horned Frogs will be hoping he got the scoring out of his system.

Fredette averaged 29.7 points in three games against TCU last season, including a memorable 45-point outing that ended the Horned Frogs' season in the Mountain West Conference postseason tournament.

Upsetting the Cougars in Provo figures to be tough enough for TCU even if Fredette should suffer an off-night. The Horned Frogs (10-9, 1-3) are improved but their 1-5 road record doesn't seem to indicate that an epic upset of a one-loss BYU squad is on the horizon.

TCU has lost two Mountain West road games by a combined 44 points -- a 34-point loss at UNLV and Saturday's 10-point defeat at Colorado State.

The Horned Frogs trailed by double digits most of the contest after allowing the Rams to shoot 72.4 percent from the field in the first half.

After playing at BYU, the Horned Frogs will be home for two of three games and hoping to build momentum for the second half of the season.

TCU's chances of notching a winning season improve significantly if it can win late-January home games against Utah and Air Force.

NOTES, QUOTES

--TCU's defense continues to struggle. The Horned Frogs are next-to-last in the Mountain West in scoring defense (69.4) and last in field-goal percentage (45.3).

--Colorado State's 60.4 field-goal percentage was the highest against TCU this season.

--The Horned Frogs' five road losses are by an average of 14 points.

BY THE NUMBERS: 105 -- Hank Thorns' assist total, the highest in the Mountain West.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have had a lot of conversation on getting in the gym more, working one-on-one and talking about his game." -- Coach Jim Christian after Ronnie Moss scored a season-high 27 points and had a career-best 10 rebounds in a victory over Wyoming.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Brigham Young, Jan. 18

KEY MATCHUPS: Keeping Jimmer Fredette from scoring 30-plus points is a real concern and the Horned Frogs figure to throw both Hank Thorns and Ronnie Moss at the BYU star. But Horned Frogs also will have hands full with Cougars forwards Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock.

--vs. Utah, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: This will be an intriguing point guard battle between Thorns and Utah's Josh Watkins, a junior-college transfer who is playing well. Defending Utes leading scorer Will Clyburn another key for the Horned Frogs.

FUTURES MARKET: Freshman forward Amric Fields has been a solid contributor and has a promising future. Fields had 19 points against Colorado State for his fifth double-digit performance of the campaign. Fields is averaging 8.0 points and shooting 52.1 percent from the field and figures to get even more playing time once his defense and rebounding abilities catch up to his offense. He has started one game this season and scored a season-high 26 points in that contest against Chicago State. Coach Jim Christian wants to get Fields as much experience as possible as the season progresses.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior G Ronnie Moss had 17 points against Colorado State to move into 25th on the school's career scoring list with 1,058 points.

--Junior G Hank Thorns had 19 assists in games against Wyoming and Colorado State to raise his Mountain West-leading average to 5.8.

--Junior F J.R. Cadot shot just 30 percent in TCU's first four Mountain West games after shooting 71.2 percent during nonconference play.

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UTAH
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GETTING INSIDE

Utah coach Jim Boylen spotted something highly pleasing after a 25-point loss to Brigham Young that represented his team's seventh straight loss.

Boylen noticed his team's work ethic hadn't slipped and that the effort being given during practice was at good as it had been all season.

That left the Utes coach with an optimistic feeling and his belief was backed up Jan. 15 when the Utes notched an impressive 68-51 road victory over Wyoming to snap a seven-game losing skid.

It was Utah's first win since beating Boise State on Dec. 17.

"I have been saying for the last month, I feel this is a good, young, developing team that is playing good basketball, and just needed to break through," Boylen said. "We practiced very well after the BYU game and the San Diego State game. I want to praise this group for its toughness, resiliency and the trust to be coached. I am happy for our guys that we were able to break through."

Whether the Utes can produce a second straight solid effort when they play New Mexico on Wednesday is hard to project. Utah has struggled to play 40 complete minutes but certainly did just so against Wyoming.

Utah outrebounded Wyoming 47-29 and limited the Cowboys to 35.8 percent shooting. Center David Foster led the defensive charge with 11 rebounds and five blocked shots and junior forward Will Clyburn again was the offensive star, scoring 24 points for his ninth 20-point outing of the season.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Utah's previous seven-game losing streak occurred more than 60 years ago, during the 1949-50 season.

--The Utes made 12 3-pointers against Wyoming, their second-most of the season. Utah had 13 3-pointers against Air Force.

--Holding Wyoming to 51 points was Utah's second-best defensive effort of the campaign. The Utes held Grand Canyon College to 48 points in the season-opening contest.

BY THE NUMBERS: 53 -- Season blocked shots total for center David Foster.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We found the center position for rebounding and that was maybe the difference in the game.

"I thought our defense was very good and our rebounding was even better." – Coach Jim Boylen after centers David Foster and Jason Washburn combined for 19 rebounds in a victory over Wyoming.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. New Mexico, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: Point guard Josh Watkins must hold his own against New Mexico star Dairese Gary or it could be a long night for the Utes. Defending Lobos forward Drew Gordon also is crucial.

--at TCU, Jan. 22 KEY MATCHUPS: Will Clyburn could be in for a big game against the Horned Frogs, who lack the type of defender that can shut down the versatile forward. Utah needs solid guard play against the TCU combo or Ronnie Moss and Hank Thorns.

FUTURES MARKET: Junior center David Foster has been hindered by balky knees for most of the season and is just now able to play 25-plus minutes without issues. The results are showing as the 7-foot-3 Foster had 23 rebounds in back-to-back games, including a career-best 12 rebounds against Brigham Young. The superb shot blocker -- his career total is up to 173, second-best in school history -- was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year last season and the Utes have missed his ability to both block and alter opponents' shots.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior F Jay Watkins has missed the last three games due to back spasms. He has missed five games overall due to back issues.

--Junior F Will Clyburn had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Wyoming for his sixth double-double of the season. He also a tied a career-best with five 3-point baskets.

--Junior C David Foster has blocked five or more shots three times this season. His season-high is seven and his career-best is 10, set last season against Weber State.

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WYOMING
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GETTING INSIDE

The once-promising career of Wyoming's Afam Muojeke has suffered another setback.

The junior forward will undergo season-ending knee surgery later this week, marking the second consecutive season that the player who starred as a freshman will see his season end midway through the campaign.

Muojeke recently suffered torn cartilage in his left knee. Last season, he ruptured the patellar tendon in the same knee.

Muojeke was still rebounding from last season's major injury when the last one occurred. He had played in just 11 games and hadn't always been productive when he was able to play.

Muojeke averaged 7.7 points and shot just 35 percent from the field. He averaged 13.8 points two seasons ago when he was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and was averaging 16.8 points as a sophomore before the season-ending injury.

The Cowboys were already facing an uphill battle in conference play before losing Muojeke and the task of competing gets tougher without him. His absence was magnified in a 68-51 loss to Utah, a contest in which Wyoming shot just 35.8 percent from the field while scoring its fewest points of the season.

When healthy, Muojeke is a potent offensive force who can hit the mid-range jumper and create his own scoring opportunities. Without him, Desmar Jackson is the lone Cowboy player with big-time scoring skills.

Wyoming has ample time to figure out how to proceed without Muojeke. The Cowboys have a midweek bye before playing at Air Force on Saturday.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Wyoming was outrebounded by a whopping 47-29 by Utah. The 47 boards are the most against the Cowboys this season.

--Wyoming's nine turnovers against Utah was its third-fewest of the season. The Cowboys twice committed just eight.

--The Cowboys shot 20 percent from 3-point range against Utah to lower their percentage to 28.8, worst in the Mountain West.

BY THE NUMBERS: 67.3 -- Wyoming's scoring average, which ranks last in the Mountain West.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Offensively, Utah did a good job of overloading our zone and attacking us from the corner. Still, we held them to 68 points. When you hold a team to 68 points you should have a chance to win. We just couldn't score the basketball." -- Coach Heath Schroyer on Wyoming's 17-point home loss to Utah.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Air Force, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Adam Waddell should be well-rested with the midweek bye and the big guy will represent a test for Air Force. Desmar Jackson's driving ability key against pesky Falcons' defenders.

FUTURES MARKET: Desmar Jackson emerged as Wyoming's go-to player over the second half of last season after Afam Muojeke suffered a season-ending knee injury but there was concern over whether or not the two scorers could co-exist. Nothing to worry about now with Muojeke again injured and the Cowboys will be hoping Jackson is again ready to carry the offense. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.5 despite being a below-average 3-point shooter. He had five 20-point games and might need to have those types of games on a near-nightly basis to keep Wyoming's record from disintegrating.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore F Amath M'Baye had 11 points and a career-best 10 rebounds against Utah for his first career double-double.

--Junior C Adam Waddell played a season-high 29 minutes against Utah, further signifying his progress from a lingering Achilles' tendon injury.

--Senior F Djibril Thiam played just 14 minutes against Utah as he's still hindered by the toe injury that caused him to miss the Jan. 12 game against TCU.

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