LARAMIE — One of the things Allen Edwards likes most about his basketball team is its depth. The second-year Wyoming men’s basketball coach began to take advantage of that depth in a different way Saturday against Pacific. Edwards used a platoon-like rotation, substituting in a slew of new players at around the halfway points of both the first and second halves.
While the lineups gave Wyoming a new look in the 86-72 win, their main purpose was to get seniors Alan Herndon and Hayden Dalton more rest.
“Obviously, H. started off the season with 40-plus (minute) games, and Al has been up around 35 or 38, depending on the opponent,” Edwards said. “But at the end of the day, what we’re asking them to do is pretty tough. Sometimes going against guys that are 40 pounds bigger than them, to bang and keep them out of the paint and then say, ‘Give me that same energy on the offensive end of the floor,’ has been tough.”
The second unit roughly consisted of Nyaires Redding, who had started every game at point guard this season before Saturday; Alexander Aka Gorski, who started the game but then came out for freshman Hunter Maldonado; Lou Adams; Andrew Moemeka and Jordan Naughton.
“I liked it, actually,” said Cody Kelley, who made his first start. “It was more like reinforcements. When you’re sitting on the bench waiting to go in and he brings in five at a time, that’s reinforcement. We’re trying to bring in the exact same energy off the bench as the guys had on the floor, if not more, because we’ve been sitting there.”
The first time the Cowboys made the hockey-like line change, the second group lost the Pokes’ double-digit lead. The second time, it keep the Tigers out of striking distance.
“It’s like everybody’s fresh off the bench,” said Adams, who in the second half flipped with starter Justin James. “It’s not like people are hot or warm already. So it’s kind of new. I mean, we’re going to obviously do more of it in practice to get familiar with each other.
“It’s a lot of guys that played tonight that usually don’t play with each other on the court at the same time. Like, Andrew and Jordan played at the same time; two fives played at the same time.”
Wyoming had rarely played Moemeka or Naughton without Dalton or Herndon also on the floor this year.
“At the end of the day, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t take Al and H. out,” Edwards said. “I would have them play 40 minutes. But that’s short-term thinking. I think if we’re going to be able to use them long term, I’ve got to find a way to rest them.
“So within that process, the best way to do it is getting Andrew and Jordan out there a little bit more and attacking differently with that lineup, rather than with Al and H. out on the floor. More duck-ins with Jordan and Andrew and more ball-screen situations to give guys like Lou, Ny and maybe even J.J. an opportunity to play off ball screens.”
Naughton has now played double-digit minutes in consecutive games. He had hardly seen the floor before Wyoming’s game at South Carolina, but Edwards said he used Naughton more there because of the Gamecocks’ physicality.
Wyoming’s new system might those minutes the new normal.
“I think that the end of the day, what’s best about it is at least they know they’re going to get in the game,” Edwards said. “So there’s a mental preparation there outside of not knowing. ‘I might play tonight. I might not.’
“But, like I told the staff, I’ve got to hold myself accountable to getting that group out there.”