Wyoming’s goal at Arizona: ‘Minimize the damage’
LARAMIE -- Jeff Linder has poured over the film.
He's watched each one of Arizona's seven games from start to finish. He's also good friends with Wildcats' first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd. The two have shared many phone conversations over their two-decade relationship. Different theories about the game of basketball are often tossed about.
Linder knows these guys have plenty of length and size. They run the floor with break-neck speed. Transition is the name of the game in the desert.
So, what's the plan when the Cowboys travel to Tucson for a Wednesday night tipoff against the No. 11 team in the country?
It's not as complicated as you might think.
"I mean, nothing changes in terms of what we're trying to do," Wyoming's second-year head coach said Monday. "Whether it's Cal State Fullerton on the road, Washington on the road or Grand Canyon on the road, it's our preparation regardless of who we're playing.
"Granted, the opponent is really good."
Yes, they are.
Arizona, along with Wyoming, are two of the final 12 remaining unbeaten teams in the country. The Wildcats are the top scoring team in the nation, averaging 91.3 points per outing. Twice U of A has eclipsed the 100-point mark this season. Two other times, they've landed in the 90's.
This team is also leading Division-I in scoring margin.
They aren't just beating teams, they are hammering them to the tune of 32 points per game.
"What they're doing, the pace they're playing at, you know, my guys probably don't quite know," Linder said. "They won't know until it really hits them what it really feels like at the pace that they play at."
Arizona features four players who average double-digit scoring, led by last week's PAC 12 Player of the Week, Bennedict Mathurin. The sophomore guard netted 29 in a 90-65 win over Oregon State. You might recall, the Beavers made it all the way to the Elite 8 last spring.
Two big men patrol the paint for the Wildcats -- Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko. The later is 7-foot-1. Both average 15.6 points per contest.
Linder knows those two can limit paint touches and do plenty of damage when they get the ball in their hands. Wyoming's 6-foot-9 Graham Ike, the defending Mountain West Player of the Week, has his hands full on both ends.
"You have to do good job of being creative and finding ways to create pain touches, because if not, as you can see, they can run the score up on you in a hurry if you're not getting the right shots," Linder said. "... We've seen a lot of length and size and it's something that we won't be shocked by. And with a guy like Graham, I mean, I'll put him up against anybody in the country one on one on the block."
Will it be a one-on-one situation?
That also won't surprise UW's staff, who has spent countless hours pounding Ike with double teams during the offseason.
Lloyd has already done plenty of scouting on the Cowboys, too. He was at the Grand Canyon game in Phoenix On Nov. 22. His son, Liam Lloyd, is a guard for the Antelopes.
Linder called Arizona' pace of play "relentless."
Negating transition points will be a key to walking out of McKale Center with the upset. So will rebounding -- on both ends -- another category the Wildcats dominate in.
"We've been in a lot of different situations where, ultimately, as we always say, you're judged by your response," he said. "And our response in all those situations has been really good. No one has put their head down. No one has wavered."
To the surprise of no one, the undefeated Cowboys are a big under dog in this one despite landing in the 12th spot in the first NET rankings of the college basketball season.
Arizona sits in third.
Vegas has the 'Cats rolling. ESPN is giving Wyoming an 8.2% chance.
Linder could care less.
"You know, it's one of those deals where you don't go in there hoping to beat Arizona," he said. "I think it's a matter of, you have to rise to the occasion, as the Navy Seals would say. You always fall back on your training. So, we're not going to do anything different than what we've done. We're not going in there and trying to reinvent the wheel. We don't need to do that. I mean, they're not going to do that.
"... It's not rocket science, but it's easier said than done."
Tip time is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT. The game can be seen on the PAC 12 Network.
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