Fresh off upset victory over Colorado, Pokes play at Illinois StateDec 4, 2012 The Associated Press
The University of Wyoming men�s basketball team is in a mind-over-matter part of its season, something it will have to get used to when conference play starts next month.
Three days after an emotional and physical 76-69 home win over then 19th-ranked Colorado (the Buffaloes fell out of the top 25 this week), the 8-0 Cowboys play at Illinois State (5-2) at 6 tonight at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
That�s not a lot of time between games for practice, but UW dealt with the same thing last week. After its 68-40 road win at UC-Santa Barbara last Wednesday, it didn�t get back to Laramie until around 10 p.m. the next day. It had one day of practice to prepare for Colorado.
This time around, the Cowboys have one less day to get ready for Illinois State.
�Let�s not waste energy and think we�re going to improve drastically with practice,� coach Larry Shyatt said he told his team after the Colorado win. �Let�s focus on the mental part of the game and preparation part, and try to have as much energy as we can (tonight).�
The physical toll from the Colorado game was evident immediately afterward.
Sophomore starting guard Riley Grabau left in the second half with knee pain and didn�t return.
Shyatt said Grabau is day-to-day and is getting three to four treatments a day.
Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. banged knees with a Colorado player late in the game and was noticeably limping after the game. Senior guard Luke Martinez took a shot to the left elbow he broke two years ago. Shyatt said it was a �funny bone� injury where his arm went numb for a short time.
Nance and Martinez are expected to play tonight.
This recent stretch of games has a conference feel to it with two games in a week � one at home and one on the road. This will be UW�s toughest consecutive games test of the season.
Illinois State led No. 5 Louisville by as many as 13 points on the road before it lost 69-66 last Saturday.
Like UW, it beat UC-Santa Barbara by 28 points. The Redbirds have lost two straight by three points apiece, including a 72-69 loss in overtime to Northwestern.
�They�re the best defensive team we�ve played since I�ve been back here as the coach,� said Shyatt, who returned as coach last season after one season at UW in 1997-98.
�They�re committed and pressure you for 40 minutes. I have not seen one individual in their nine-man rotation that doesn�t play hard, aggressive and pressure at all times.�
Pokes in the polls
UW received five votes in the latest Associated Press men�s college basketball poll, which equates to a No. 39 ranking. It is the first time since Feb. 24, 2003, the Cowboys have received votes in this poll.
UW also got nine votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, which puts them 34th.
The Cowboys have an Rating Percentage Index of 51 and are one of six Mountain West teams with an RPI in the top 55 out of 342 Division I schools.