Cowboys: Wyoming prepares for Western Michigan in the CBI, possibly without Washington

2013-03-24T14:00:00Z 2013-03-24T14:55:13Z Cowboys: Wyoming prepares for Western Michigan in the CBI, possibly without WashingtonBy CLINT ROBUS Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Leonard Washington's back is in the same place it's been for well over a month.

Or rather, back in the same place.

"I think he wants to connect the dots and get on the floor Monday night," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said on Friday, "but it is day-to-day as it's been for over nine games."

Shyatt said Washington, the Cowboys senior catalyst, received treatments on his battered back on Thursday, but his status for Monday's College Basketball Invitational quarterfinal game against Western Michigan is very much in the air.

Wyoming (20-13 overall) hosts the Broncos (21-12) at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.

Washington led Wyoming past Fresno State in an overtime victory on Feb. 16, but sat out the next two games with an ankle injury. He logged 33 minutes in his Feb. 26 return (a loss at Air Force), but has averaged 16 minutes per game in the Cowboys' last five games, including just two minutes in the first-round CBI victory against Lehigh.

Since the injuries hit Washington, Wyoming is 2-6. While the Cowboys escaped Lehigh thanks to Nathan Sobey's buzzer-beater, having Washington could be paramount against Western Michigan.

The Broncos' top two players, junior Shayne Whittington and freshman Darius Paul, are interior forces. The 6-foot-10 Whittington averages a team-leading 13.2 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, while the 6-foot-8 Paul -- the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year -- averages 10.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg.

Add in the solid backcourt duo of senior Brandon Pokley (a 40 percent 3-point shooter) and sophomore Austin Richie (with a 1.63 assist-to-turnover ratio) and Western Michigan is a balanced opponent. The Broncos have four players averaging at least 10 ppg -- including sixth-man junior David Brown (10.6 ppg) -- and five average at least 8.8 ppg.

"Wittington and Paul will give us, as they've given others, some serious problems," Shyatt said. "We'll have our hands full."

That's why Washington's availability as the team's best interior defender is critical if Wyoming looks to continue what has become an attrition-filled season. Shyatt said the Cowboys will have to improve their interior defense, but some of the struggles against Lehigh were a result of juggling the lineup after Washington tweaked his back in pre-game warm-ups.

Still, Shyatt has been proud of the way the team has adjusted and continued to battle. This time of the year, he's seen other teams find ways to give in, which he hasn't seen from the Pokes despite nights and weeks where the temptation to do just that has been strong.

"They found a way to win," Shyatt said.

Wyoming might have to find one more way to win without Washington on the floor.

Contact sports reporter Clint Robus at or 307-266-0615. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRobus

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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