LARAMIE (AP) – Larry Shyatt knows the five-man show isn’t the most sustainable approach to a successful season. That’s why he would like a little more from his team’s supporting cast.
“Our bench is going to have to be significantly important this year,” the Wyoming men’s basketball coach said after his Cowboys beat Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State 74-55 on Saturday. “And for them to do that, they need to battle up.”
Ever since freshman guard Josh Adams replaced injured Riley Grabau in the Cowboys’ starting lineup, the Pokes have depended almost entirely on the team’s first five: Adams, Leonard Washington, Larry Nance Jr., Derrious Gilmore and Luke Martinez.
It’s worked, so far. Wyoming (10-0) still stands as one of the nation’s 14 undefeated teams, thanks to a road win against Illinois State and a home victory against a stubborn Aggie team on Saturday.
But the Casper Star-Tribune reports that the way in which his team won its last two games has Shyatt a bit concerned.
Wyoming’s starters averaged 31 minutes on Saturday. They combined for 65 points, 22 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals. UW’s bench, a group that includes six players, combined for 42 minutes. Their stats: nine points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The same starters did even more against Illinois State. They averaged 37.6 minutes and scored all but two of the team’s 81 points. They also accounted for 21-of-26 rebounds, all of the team’s steals (12) and blocks (two).
Shyatt said UW’s schedule – nine games in less than a month – has played a factor in the trend. As a result, recent practices have mostly consisted of game preparation that asks reserve players to serve as a scout team that mimics an upcoming opponent.
That will now change. Wyoming doesn’t play another game until Dec. 18. Shyatt said the string of practices in between will revolve around competition instead of preparation.
“We need to smash each other a little bit,” Shyatt said. “We need to get back to competing.”
Shyatt said he wants 10-or-11 contributors instead of five. That leaves room for increased roles from the following; forwards Austin Haldorson and Derek Cooke Jr., guards Jack Bentz, Jason McManamen and Nathan Sobey and center Matt Sellers.
The key, Shyatt said, is being able to substitute without seeing a decrease in Wyoming’s defensive success.
“They know the message,” he said of his reserves. “They know what’s required. That’s where we have to get team production from our bench, so when we get in a situation where we need to put them in the game, we stay the course, or even improve on the defensive end.”
Gilmore, a senior guard who has been one of the five starters leaned heavily upon as of late, said he wouldn’t mind some help.
“Whenever the bench can come in and help us, that’s definitely a big plus,” he said. “We don’t put a lot on ourselves as starters to be heroes. It’s a collective group.”
A group Shyatt will try to make deeper by Dec. 18.