LARAMIE – Allen Edwards said he hasn’t brought it up, nor has any of his assistants.
The third-year University of Wyoming men’s basketball coach takes his team to San Jose State tonight. The Cowboys (6-23 overall, 2-14 Mountain West) seek their first road win of the season, and a victory would keep them out of a last place tie in the league standings with the Spartans (4-24, 1-15) over the final week of the regular season.
“That, to me, is thinking short-term,” Edwards said. “Even in the midst of the season, it is about culture and what we’re trying to do. With the way the season has gone, I have never changed my mindset. I have never changed my approach. I have never talked about anything but building on what we have.
“For me to go in and talk about this game is a fight not to be last, that would be settling for something.”
UW looks to snap a season-high six-game losing streak, which also is the longest current losing skid in the MW. One of the Cowboys’ two conference wins was against San Jose State, 59-46, on Jan. 23 in Laramie. UW shot a season-best 56.1 percent from the field and held San Jose State to 32.7 percent.
The Spartans snapped a 17-game losing streak last week with an 89-82 home victory over New Mexico, where sophomore guard Noah Baumann made eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points. Junior forward Michael Steadman added 21 points and 11 rebounds. Those two combined for 18 points on 8 of 25 shooting in Laramie.
Baumann leads the MW in 3-point shooting percentage (45.6) and has made 68 3s this season. The 6-foot-10 Steadman has 10 double-doubles, and leads the Spartans with 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
San Jose State had 15 offensive rebounds in the first game against UW, and it scored 15 second-chance points.
“Baumann has been playing well, and we have to keep him in check again,” Edwards said. “We need to make things tough for Steadman because he’s played a lot better from our first game.
“They want to go inside to their big guys and go inside-out. Steadman is who they want to get it to, although (6-11 junior) Ashtin Chastain is playing a lot better.”
Steadman and Chastain will be a formidable test for UW’s two bigs – 6-10 senior Jordan Naughton and 6-10 redshirt freshman Hunter Thompson. Naughton’s lingering back and knee injuries allows him to play about 15 minutes a game. Thompson averages 8.9 points per contest, but over his last five the Pine Bluffs product is 3 of 24 from the field, zero of 16 from behind the arc and scored a total of 10 points.
Getting Thompson going, and anyone else assuming senior guard Justin James continues his league-leading scoring average of 21.4 points per game, is critical for UW tonight.
However, Edwards has another concern tonight that has nothing to do with the Xs and Os of the game.
“I told our guys this is a tough game in the sense of atmosphere, and we have to be prepared to bring our own energy,” he said. “Unlike New Mexico or San Diego State where it is packed, crazy and loud, there won’t be a lot of people at this game. You can hear people’s conversations. Our energy is going to be important.”
San Jose State’s home arena seats only 5,000, and its average home attendance this season is a MW-low 1,565.
Added Naughton: “It is really important to for us to encourage each other and communicate. We have to have that energy the entire time so we don’t lose focus. That is important in any game, but especially on the road no matter who and where you play.”
James is the only guard in UW history to score 1,900 points and pull down 600 rebounds, and is one of three active players in the country with 1,900 points, 600 rebounds and 300 assists. The other two are Ethan Happ of Wisconsin and John Konchar of Purdue-Fort Wayne. … James is 23 points shy of 2,000 in his career. … Junior point guard A.J. Banks has averaged three assists over the last four games. … Junior guard Jake Hendricks made six 3-pointers in UW’s last game, and has made three or more 3s in nine of the 19 games he’s played in this season.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.