LARAMIE – If history has a tendency to repeat itself, University of Wyoming men’s basketball coach Allen Edwards is hoping that tonight proves to be the exception.
The Cowboys, in the midst of a six-game losing streak and still in search of their first Mountain West win, will face undefeated and fourth-ranked San Diego State at Viejas Arena. It will be the second time in less than two weeks that the teams have played.
When they met in Laramie on Jan. 8, UW (5-15 overall, 0-8 MW) hung tough for the first 12 minutes of the first half, trailing by just three points. The Aztecs (19-0, 8-0) proceeded to flex their muscles the remainder of the game, cruising to a comfortable 20-point victory. SDSU is the last undefeated team remaining in college basketball.
But when Edwards and the Cowboys travel to Southern California to take on one of the best teams in the nation, they can’t be in awe of the Aztec’s accolades or afraid of the moment. Instead, they have to look at it as a chance to win their first conference game.
“They’re still undefeated. Obviously, we have our hands full,” Edwards said with a chuckle. “We have to go in there and not worry about them being undefeated. They’re the San Diego State Aztecs.”
Against Fresno State last Saturday, UW went through an offensive lull that can only be described as “backbreaking”: the Cowboys went more than 11 minutes of game clock without scoring a single point, opening the floodgates for the Bulldogs, who ended up winning 65-50.
Scoreless droughts have been too common for a UW team that has struggled on the offensive end of the floor for much of the season. UW shot 32 3-pointers against Fresno State, but just three free throws the entire game. When the team is struggling to find offense, it needs to put the ball on the floor and get to the line, Edwards said. For better or worse, though, the struggling offense is part of the team’s growing process.
In a lot of ways, Edwards sees San Diego State go through similar droughts; the Aztecs are not over-the-top loaded with talent, in his eyes. What the No. 4 team in the country is, however, is connected, particularly defensively. And that end of the floor never seems to have gaps.
“San Diego State goes through some of the same lulls … (but) when they go through those lulls, the other team doesn’t score, either,” Edwards said.
One of the few bright spots in recent games has been the play of freshman guard Kwane Marble II. Marble is averaging 13 points per game over his last three contests. Over his first 11 games played, Marble averaged just two points per game.
The biggest difference in Marble has been his preparation, Edwards said. The Colorado native began the season weighing 205 pounds, but is now down to 188 pounds. That work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’ve just been playing within the system … trusting the process,” Marble said after the Fresno State game.
Marble’s increased playing time has come at the expense of senior guard A.J. Banks. Banks is averaging just two points per game over his last four contests in 17.5 minutes per game. He played 26.1 minutes per game over the first 16 games of the season.
Banks hasn’t been doing anything wrong, Edwards said. It’s more of the fact that Marble has been doing things really well. Edwards said he spoke with Banks and his father about what sorts of things the senior guard needs to do to see increased minutes. There is now an understanding that Banks has to keep putting in work on his own time, a lesson Edwards has been stressing since the team’s loss to SDSU.
“It’s amazing how when you start doing those things … your production … is impacted,” Edwards said. “When it becomes noticeable, it’s forcing my hand. (Marble) has done a good job taking advantage of his opportunity.”