LARAMIE — Coaches never want their teams to overlook opponents. When the next team on the schedule has a lackluster reputation or record to its name, a coach will always come up with some way to convince a team not to get comfortable.
That task isn’t too difficult for Allen Edwards with winless Texas Southern coming to town (8 p.m., Mountain West Network). The Tigers might be 0-10, but those 10 teams comprise an opening slate with a difficulty level that few teams have faced. In fact, according to KenPom.com, no team has had a more difficult strength of schedule than Texas Southern.
“That was one of the things that we tried to get across to our team was to not look at the record but more so look at the record and who they played,” said Edwards, Wyoming’s second-year head coach. “When you take a look at it: Gonzaga, Washington State, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Clemson, Oakland, Toledo, Oregon and Baylor. And all of them have been on the road.”
That’s right. Not only have the Tigers played all those household-name teams, three of them ranked, they’ve yet to have a home game.
“I’m pretty sure it’s something that they’re used to,” Wyoming senior Alan Herndon said. “I’m pretty sure each year they have to set up a schedule like this to go out and face these teams and go out on the road. So it’s probably nothing to them. But for myself, it would be tough to have to go 15 or however (many), 11, 12, 13 straight games on the road.”
The Tigers don’t have a home game until Jan. 1 against Southern, their 14th game of the season.
And six of their losses have been by 15 points or fewer.
“They’re playing very good teams and not losing by much,” Herndon said. “So I think we definitely had that focus coming in that they’re not going to come in here and just give us the win because, ‘Oh, they’re an oh-and-10 team.’
“They’re going to come in here and try to get that win. That’s what they’re seeking. So we’ve got to come out here focused and ready to play.”
Said sophomore Cody Kelley: “I mean, you can’t overlook anybody, but especially these guys, because they’re looking for that first win, and they’ve been battle tested. They’ve been playing really good guys, so it’s just another opponent to us.”
It also helps that the Tigers have made the NCAA Tournament three times since 2014, including earlier this year. Texas Southern, a 16 seed, lost to eventual champion North Carolina in the first round.
“We looked at that (Thursday), their past seasons, a couple NCAA appearances and NIT appearances,” Herndon said. “This coach knows what he’s doing, and they know they’re doing. They have a winning culture. It’s just that they have a very, number one probably, toughest schedule out of any team, especially to go and play every single team on the road.”
Demontrae Jefferson leads the Tigers this season with 22.3 points per game. He also has a team-high 3.6 assists.
“He’s only 5-7, but he has the heart of a giant and averaging over 20 points a game,” Edwards said.
Edwards also noted that Texas Southern has a number of experienced transfers.
“If you look at their roster, you have guys who have already played against top-notch competition,” he said. “So it’s not like they’re coming in at any venue on the road and being scared or in fear. I think they’re coming in, conversely to that, with very much great confidence that they can go in and win.”
Herndon will play
Herndon had a rough night in Wyoming’s overtime win Tuesday against Eastern Washington, going down in pain twice. The first injury was just cramping, but the second was a knee injury from which the senior did not return.
“I think the guy just kind of rolled up on my leg the wrong way, and just that initial pain was a little bit scarier than it actually was,” Herndon said. “... But once (Lance Schuemann) came out there, our athletic trainer, he just kind of calmed me down and made sure that I was able to move my knee and things like that. I was kind of reassured that there was nothing too serious wrong with it.”
Herndon said he was able to put pressure on the knee and walk on it the next morning, so he did not have an MRI done. He will play Saturday, he said.
“Nobody has to worry about that,” he said. “They’ll definitely see me out there.”