Wyoming started a tough week against the hottest team in the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys’ schedule doesn’t get any easier as they return home to face BYU.
The No. 16 Cougars look to defeat the Cowboys for the 11th straight time Saturday as they try to keep pace in the MWC race.
BYU (24-3, 9-2) is one-half game behind No. 12 New Mexico, and those teams will meet next Saturday in a major showdown in Provo. The standings seem unlikely to change this Saturday, with the Lobos playing last-place Air Force and the Cougars taking on next-to-last-place Wyoming (9-17, 2-10).
The Cowboys weren’t able to impact the race Wednesday as they suffered their sixth straight loss, 83-61 at New Mexico, winner of 10 in a row. Wyoming never recovered after allowing the game’s first 11 points.
Coach Heath Schroyer has seen up close how good the MWC is this season.
“I don’t think you can consider New Mexico, UNLV and BYU mid-majors. I think the commitment these institutions have made to basketball is night and day,” Schroyer said.
BYU coach Dave Rose is 10-0 against Wyoming since taking over in 2005. The Cougars beat the Cowboys 81-66 at home Jan. 20 behind freshman Tyler Haws’ season-high 24 points.
Not only is Rose perfect against Wyoming, his club won the last six meetings by double digits. Still, the coach is wary of facing Schroyer - the two were assistants together at BYU under Steve Cleveland from 1997-2001.
“I can tell you this, his team is playing as hard as any teams in the country with nine wins,” Rose said. “They hustle, they guard the whole floor. They’re still playing for him and they’re always tough there in the Arena-Auditorium.”
BYU had no trouble on the first leg of its two-game road stretch, winning 92-70 over Colorado State on Wednesday. MWC leading scorer Jimmer Fredette scored 36 points, one game after he had nine in a 91-48 victory over Air Force last Saturday.
“Some games, I am going to have to score,” Fredette said. “Some games, I don’t have to score because when teams key on me, my teammates are making great shots.”
Fredette had 17 points by halftime as the Cougars built a 10-point lead. Jonathan Tavernari added 13 off the bench to help BYU pull away.
“It’s getting your ninth conference win, that’s the whole focus of your group,” Rose said. “Now the most important thing is to get your 10th conference win. This team is very good at that.”
Wyoming is 1-6 since leading scorer Afam Muojeke was lost for the season Jan. 20 with a knee injury. Freshman guard Desmar Jackson stepped up to average 17.5 points in the first six games of that span before getting held to nine Wednesday.