Wyoming Destroys UC Santa Barbara, But Bigger Tests Loom For CowboysPosted by AMurawa on November 29th, 2012
Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after the Wyoming-UCSB game in Santa Barbara on Wednesday night.
While most of the college basketball world was focused on Durham, North Carolina, and other venues in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night, I took a drive up the coast to UC Santa Barbara to check out Wyoming and see with my own eyes if their 6-0 record compiled against weak competition was anything for Mountain West watchers to get excited about. Well, after a 68-40 demolishing of the Gauchos (a game that really wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate), the Cowboys’ record now stands at 7-0, but the evaluation of the current state of this team needs to wait for another day.
Yeah, the Cowboys looked pretty good. Leonard Washington had nine points (on 3-3 shooting from the field) and four boards while having his minutes slightly limited due to a pair of frustration fouls picked up over the course of a single minute in the first half, but those numbers don’t express all that Washington was in that game. He wound up credited with four steals and two blocks on the game, but frankly, his defensive effort is not summed up by those numbers. He challenged any shots in his vicinity, ripped down rebounds around the rim, and scrapped for any loose balls in his area. On offense, it was all about attacking the rim, and he had at least a pair of massive dunks on the faces of unsuspecting Gauchos. Larry Nance, Jr. joined in on the fun himself, throwing down a monster dunk on two UCSB bigs just before the half.
While that pair is a bit undersized, especially against more significant competition, they give great effort, have tremendous athleticism and work together well as a team. Of more significant concern for Wyoming is the point guard spot, presently manned by senior Derrious Gilmore. Tonight he had six assists compared with five turnovers and shot 3-of-10 from the floor (with a couple triples mixed in there). Some of those turnovers were the result of trying to beat the UCSB press off the dribble (rarely a good idea) and I’m sure head coach Larry Shyatt will have some words with his floor general about those decisions, because as the difficulty of the competition jumps up a notch (the Cowboys return home to face Colorado on Saturday, then travel to Illinois State on Tuesday), they’ll need better decision-making out of Gilmore than he displayed tonight. But still, a 28-point road win against a team that won 20 games last season? That’s good, right?
Well, it remains to be seen because UC Santa Barbara is in the process of basically starting over from scratch. Gone are Orlando Johnson, James Nunnally and three other contributing seniors from last year’s team. And in their place are, well, Gaucho head coach Bob Williams is still trying to figure out exactly what he’s got here. Tonight he started three freshmen and a sophomore, with six other freshmen on the roster. Sophomore center “Big” Alan Williams is a serious player, a force in the middle who rebounds very well, patrols the paint, and displays some great touch for a player his size (he’s listed at 240 pounds, but that number is printed, I assume, with a significant wink). Then junior guard Kyle Boswell is sort of a designated shooter for this squad. Beyond that, redshirt freshman Taran Brown and true freshman Mike Bryson look like keepers at the wing, but senior point guard Nate Garth was largely invisible in his 18 minutes tonight and his backup, T.J. Taylor, wasn’t any better. And then there’s a host of big, unathletic, uncoordinated projects providing depth off the bench. While the team will certainly get better as some of the younger guys gain experience (and they’ll get their chance at revenge on the Cowboys on December 21 in Laramie), unless something clicks in a big way for one or more of these guys between now and conference play, this team has the look of a back of the pack Big West team.