LARAMIE — Stopping the skid for Wyoming will mean stopping its biggest rival.
That starts with one player in particular.
The Cowboys, fresh off their 81-75 midweek loss at Air Force, will bring a three-game losing streak back to the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday for their first Border War matchup of the season with Colorado State, which may literally provide the tallest test Wyoming has had all season. Colorado State has lost four of its last six games following a 98-82 loss to No. 6 Nevada on Wednesday. The Rams are well on their way to another pedestrian season after finishing next to last in the Mountain West standings last season, though it hasn’t been for a lack of trying on Nico Carvacho’s part.
Carvacho is leading the nation in rebounding at 12.9 boards per game while averaging 15.8 points a game. One of just two players in the league averaging a double-double on the season, the Rams’ 6-foot-11, 240-pound center has proven difficult to contain once he establishes position deep in the paint, leading the MW with a 59-percent shooting clip from the floor.
It’s a distinct disadvantage on paper for Wyoming, which has struggled mightily to hold its own on the glass. The Cowboys’ minus-6.4 rebounding margin is the worst in the league by a wide margin. New Mexico is the next-closest at minus-1.4.
The Cowboys had a respectable showing in that area against Air Force, losing the battle of the boards by just five (33-28) as part of one of their better performances in league play. Behind 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from Jake Hendricks in his first game back from a torn knee ligament that sidelined him for more than a month, the Cowboys set a season-high with 15 3-pointers as part of a 47-percent shooting performance. It was their first conference loss that wasn’t decided by more than two possessions.
Wyoming should be able to create more high-percentage looks given it’s able to hold on to the ball against a Colorado State team that’s allowing the second-most points in the MW (77.1 per game) and is last in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (36.9). The Cowboys will need more out of freshman big Hunter Thompson, who’s averaging 11.1 points for the season but is just 2 of 10 from the field over the last two games.
Defense from Thompson and fellow forward Jordan Naughton on the inside will be just as important, something that was virtually non-existent against Air Force. Lavelle Scottie dominated the interior for the Falcons, going 15 of 20 on his way to a career-high 34 points with all of his makes coming from 2-point range.
It’ll take a much stingier, collective effort from Wyoming against Carvacho, who’s coming off a 24-point, 17-rebound night against Nevada.