Wyoming (12-0) at SMU (10-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Moody Coliseum (8,000) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Wyoming 9-0, SMU 5-0. Away Record: Wyoming 3-0, SMU 3-2. Neutral Record: Wyoming 0-0, SMU 2-2. Conference Record: Wyoming 0-0, SMU 0-0. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: One of the last unbeaten teams in the country, the Wyoming Cowboys start off the new year with a trip to Dallas where they will challenge the SMU Mustangs in non-conference action at Moody Coliseum.
The Cowboys have tied the best start in program history with 12 straight wins out of the gate, yet the team is not among the nationally ranked even though it is one of just four teams (Duke, Michigan and Arizona) that remains undefeated heading into the new calendar year. The squad has been out of action since Dec. 21 when it dropped UC Santa Barbara in a 56-40 final at home.
Unfortunately, it was announced on Monday that Wyoming's second-leading scorer, Luke Martinez (14.5 ppg), suffered a broken hand in an off-campus incident and is out indefinitely, which means the team's run of success could be ending sooner than expected.
As for the Mustangs, led by first-year and legendary head coach Larry Brown, they're not doing too bad either with 10 wins in 14 opportunities. The squad started off the campaign with five straight triumphs, and eight in the first nine outings, before experiencing a three-game slide in the middle of December.
However, on Sunday SMU picked up a 72-53 win against Furman for its second win in a row.
The Cowboys lead the all-time series by a count of 3-2, the most recent of those encounters coming in 2005 when Wyoming logged a 75-69 victory at home.
Defense continues to be the top priority for the Cowboys and that was evident against UCSB the last time out when for the second time in a span of less than a month, the Pokes held the Gauchos to a paltry 40 points. UCSB was limited to just six field goals in the second half of the meeting on Dec. 21 in Laramie, finishing the contest at 34.9 percent from the floor and 1-of-13 behind the 3- point line. From an offensive standpoint, Leonard Washington recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards, while Martinez tacked on 14 points as they survived only 5-of-23 shooting themselves on the perimeter. Washington remains the top offensive threat with his 14.8 ppg and is also first with 8.7 rpg and now with Martinez out of the picture, Derrious Gilmore (12.5 ppg) and Larry Nance Jr. (11.2 ppg) will be asked to take on even more responsibility. But again, the reason Wyoming has been so successful this season is because of a defense that has held the competition to only 54.5 ppg.
One of four teams in Conference USA already with double-digit wins, the Mustangs have gotten there by playing a host of questionable competition. Beating up on the likes of Furman, Alcorn State and Malone, while just barely pulling out victories against TCU, Texas State and Missouri State, makes you wonder what will happen to the squad when conference play rolls around. Against the Paladins, Brian Bernardi came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points in just 23 minutes, leading four players in double figures during the 21-point blowout victory. Jalen Jones chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds, Cannen Cunningham came up a board shy of a double-double as he tallied 13 points and Shawn Williams accounted for 10 points and seven rebounds as well. Defensively, the Ponies held the opposition to just 28.1 percent shooting from the floor, the third time this season an opponent has come in under 30 percent, which has helped SMU limit all foes to an average of just 38.3 percent accuracy from the field thus far.
Even with Martinez watching from the bench, the Cowboys will find a way to rally the troops and keep their record unblemished, as long as they can keep the scoring to a minimum.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 55, SMU 50
01/02 10:32:23 ET