A BYU win over Wyoming tonight would make the WAC race an interesting affair in Utah.
Utah's defeat of the Cowboys left the Utes the only undefeated WAC team, while BYU has one loss. If the Cougs (10-8 overall, 4-1 WAC) beat the 'Pokes (13-3, 3-1), the two teams from Utah will be 1-2 in league play.The Cowboys can be expected to do everything they can to destroy that scenario and avoid back-to-back home losses when they tip-off
against the Cougars in tonight's 10 p.m. nationally televised game on ESPN.
The 'Pokes, a preseason pick to finish second in the WAC, know that another loss at home would do serious damage to their title hopes.
"We can't lose two in a row, especially here," said Reggie Slater, Wyoming's leading scorer and rebounder. "We have to play that much harder."
Slater may be the key. The Utes used a switching man-to-man defense and some strong body-bumping to hold the 6-foot-7 forward scoreless in the first half. He finished with six points on two-of-nine shooting. Slater, who gets most of his points inside, could be expected to have a similarly tough time against BYU's frontline defense.
But while the Utes were controlling Slater, 6-1 Cowboy guard Maurice Alexander had a career-high 32 points, making 10 of 17 shots, including five of 10 from three-point range. Good perimeter shooters have given BYU problems in the past, although the Cougs did a good defensive job against CSU's guards Thursday.
BYU Coach Roger Reid professes respect for the Cowboys ("I've said from the beginning that Wyoming has the best talent in the league"), but in many ways, Wyoming is a lot like BYU. The 'Pokes don't have a 7-foot-6 center (who does?), but they shoot well, rebound well and are turnover-prone - all Cougar traits, although BYU has kept the turnovers down in recent games.
Perhaps the biggest difference is in coaching. Reid prefers a disciplined, passing game, with players rarely engaging in one-on-one contests with opponents, while Wyoming Coach Benny Dees lets his team run and gun more.
Something to watch: Will Wyoming try to pressure BYU's guards as they bring the ball upcourt? Teams did it effectively against the Cougs in the preseason but WAC teams haven't attempted it. Wyoming, however, reputedly has quick enough guards to make a press work.