LARAMIE — Wyoming’s league-mates started from the bottom in this year’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, losing four of their first five games in this year’s iteration. The Mountain West has been more successful since, as New Mexico and Nevada have come through with wins over Evansville and Illinois State, respectively.
Saturday, Wyoming hosts Drake (4 p.m., Mountain West Network) in hopes of continuing to help its conference get it together.
The Cowboys are coming off a loss Wednesday at Denver, but they have company, as the Bulldogs lost Wednesday to Omaha. And if the Pokes need to hold onto something, they’re going home, where they are 2-0 this season.
“You’re always happy about playing on your home floor,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “That’s the beauty about the game of basketball, which is different from a lot of other sports. You’ve got to get back on the horse, and it comes a lot quicker than one week in between. So it’s an opportunity again to get back on the home floor and get back on the right side.”
Drake (4-2) leads the Missouri Valley with 83.5 points per game this season, and the Bulldogs’ offense should be downtown for much of the game, as its 43.0 3-point percentage is 18th in the nation. Senior guard Reed Timmer has been able to light up teams for 21.7 points per game with a 54.1 3-point percentage this season, leading the Bulldogs’ four players in double figures.
Wyoming (5-2) killed everybody in the conference last year in 3-point defense, allowing just a 31.0 percent mark. This year, the Pokes ranked fourth in the Mountain West in that category before allowing Denver to connect on nearly half its 3s.
“We forgot a few things in the Denver game that we shouldn’t forget,” senior Lou Adams said. “Mistakes that a veteran team shouldn’t make. Just got to be better on defense and be more locked in.”
The Cowboys could use more life in general on defense, where their energy level was the furthest thing from perfect against the 2-4 Pioneers.
“It was definitely a frustrating locker room (afterward), just because we didn’t recognize who that team was out on the floor,” senior Alan Herndon said. “We didn’t do any of the things that we really harped on and talked about this year.
“It seems like we were just kind of out there playing and doing our own thing. And when you do that, it’s tough, and it’s hard to take losses like that. You’d rather go out there and feel like you’ve done everything you could have to try to prevent it. But that time, it just seems like we were beating ourselves.”
But the Cowboys weren’t charged up offensively, either, shooting less than 30 percent from the field Wednesday as they fell behind in the first half. The solution could be to avoid letting the defense dictate shots and instead taking a shot for themselves.
“I think some were kind of rushed, and I think that’s what Denver and their scheme wanted us to do,” Herndon said. “They wanted us to think that we were taking an open shot when they were able to affect it late. So while it might have looked open, it truly wasn’t.
“So I think that’s just something we’ve got to work on. We’ll definitely get to it today in practice.”
Still, as much as the Denver loss stung, the Cowboys don’t want to think about it too much going forward.
“We’ve just got to look forward and take out our frustration, the pain we felt from this last game and take it out on Drake, who’s our focus now,” senior Alexander Aka Gorski said. “... We’ve just got to get back to our old ways.”