LARAMIE — One of the benefits of having a five-game home stand is, of course, familiarity. The Wyoming men’s basketball team will have that as they continue their string of games at the Arena-Auditorium on Tuesday against Eastern Washington.
But there will be another level of familiarity as, for the second straight game, Wyoming plays a non-conference team it faced in 2016-17. Wyoming hosted the Eagles in March for a 91-81 first-round College Basketball Invitational win.
The Cowboys (7-3) went on to win four more games at home to claim the CBI championship. Wyoming is coming off a win over Pacific on Saturday, a team that beat the Cowboys in Stockton, California, last season.
The Eagles aren’t bringing the same team that they brought for the CBI, however. Eastern Washington is now coached by Shantay Legans, who had been an assistant on the team.
“I’d say the biggest difference from the last year’s staff and this year’s staff is probably their offensive package is not as wide,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “I think Coach Legans has cut it down and is more specific about the type of action that he’s trying to get and how he involves number 32.”
That would be Bogdan Bliznyuk, who scored a game-high 29 in Wyoming’s win over the Eagles in March.
“Well, he’s going to shoot,” Edwards said. “We’re not going to stop how many times he actually shoots the basketball. What we have to do is just make it tough. If he’s going to get whatever his number is, get him a lot of attempts. Versus getting them on minimum attempts. I think they play well when he’s in that 20 to close to 30 area and he’s taking only 15 shots. That’s a bad night for you.”
Like Wyoming, the 3-7 Eagles have a Pac-12 win this season. Eastern Washington beat Stanford 67-61 in November. The Pokes won at Oregon State earlier this season.
Kelly at the point
Sophomore point guard Cody Kelley made his first start of the year, and second of his career, Saturday against Pacific.
“It doesn’t really make a difference to me, because once the game’s going and we’re in the flow of things, everybody’s the same anyway,” Kelley said. “It felt good to just come out and try to be the guy that tries to come out fast, rather than waiting for it. But regardless, I thought it was good.”
Junior Nyaires Redding had started every game at the point for Wyoming before Saturday.
“I just thought when he was out there with the second group, I thought he was trying to do too much,” Edwards said of Kelley. “And then I got on Ny, because I’m trying to get him more energetic about affecting the game. I know some of the things we saw last year in practice, I felt like I haven’t seen it yet. So I just wanted to change it up a little bit to see how it would look.
“But I thought Cody did a tremendous job tonight. I thought he played within his self, within his game, really affected it on both ends of the floor. He was great patrolling and I thought he did a tremendous job defensively. So I was happy to see that.”
Kelley finished the game with six points on 50 percent shooting, all behind the arc, with five assists, one rebound and two turnovers. His 27 minutes were tied for second on the team.
“Cody always brings us energy from the bench,” senior Lou Adams said. “So to get a good start (from him) and get the energy going early, that was obviously a big plus for us.”
Edwards said freshman Anthony Mack continues to recover from the concussion that has sidelined him all season and that he expects the Las Vegas native to be on the bench for Wyoming’s game Tuesday. Mack has not been able to be on the bench for games because the game environment would be bad for his concussion.
Edwards still hopes to play Mack this season.
“I mean, that’s the plan,” Edwards said. “He’s not thought about anything else. But he’s a pretty motivated kid. There’s still a lot of season left. Lot of season left. So when he gets cleared, if he’s out there maybe a couple weeks for practice and then maybe possibly trying to get him out there bits and pieces.
“If it continues to go on and we get deep, obviously a few games or whatever it is, in conference, then maybe we will have that conversation (about redshirting).”