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Poke Basketball Preview & Prediction: Utah Valley Wolverines

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Wyoming looks to bounce back against Utah Valley

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- San Diego State vs Wyoming Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

What: Wyoming Cowboys vs. Utah Valley Wolverines

When: Saturday, December 11, 2021, 8:00 p.m. MT

Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie, WY

Line: Wyoming -8

Series: Wyoming leads the series versus Utah valley 4-1. The Cowboys beat the Wolverines in their last meeting in 2020 by a score of 93-88.

What to know: The Wyoming Cowboys (8-1) are no longer undefeated. The team traveled to Tucson earlier this week and ran into an Arizona team that looked like they could very well compete for a national title this season. The undefeated Wildcats handed the Cowboys their first loss of the year, beating them convincingly earlier this week by a score of 94-65. The Cowboys let an early first half run by the Wildcats get away from them, effectively destroying any chance they might’ve had at a second half comeback. As for the Wolverines of Utah Valley (7-2) they are also coming off a loss, losing out in a close matchup on the road against Southern Utah by a closer score of 60-56. It was their first loss in their past eight games.

What to expect from Utah Valley: Despite the disappointing loss in their last affair with Southern Utah, the Wolverines hot start is no fluke. UVU has won seven of their last eight games and owns impressive victories on their season, including a huge upset-victory over BYU by a final score of 72-65. They are led by third year Head Coach Mark Madsen, Junior Center Fardaws Aimaq, and Junior Guard Connor Harding. Aimaq leads the team in scoring (20.4) , rebounds (14.3), and blocks (1.6), while Sophomore Guard Justin Harmon (12.1) and the aforementioned Harding (12.0) are the next leading scoring contributors. The team doesn’t shoot particularly often or well from three, coming with a 33.8% mark from deep, but do shoot relatively well from the floor at 44.2%. In their last game against Southern Utah, however, the Wolverines did struggle from the floor, shooting a porous 35% for the game. The team also struggles considerably with turning the ball over, doing so on average 15.2 times per game.

What to expect from Wyoming: The Cowboys are also coming back home following a disappointing road loss to Arizona. The disappointing part isn’t necessarily the loss, with Arizona looking like a legit national title-contender, but the margin at which the team did lose, which was 29 points. It was a lackluster first half that kept the Cowboys out of reach, actually outscoring Arizona 43-41 in the second half of the game. Despite their unfulfilling loss last time out, the Cowboys are returning home to Arena-Auditorium, a place where they’ve seen nothing but major success in the early campaign. The Cowboys have won their last five home games while scoring an average of 86.8 points per game and giving up only 54.6. Jeff Linder’s Pokes have been led by Sophomore Forward Graham Ike (20.3 PPG) and Senior Guard Hunter Maldonado (17.6 PPG) this season. The team has prided themselves on ball security, shooting efficiency, and team defense this season. The Cowboys have only turned the ball over on 14.6% of their possessions and are shooting 49.0% from the field, while only allowing opposing teams to make 38.2% of their shots from the floor.

Prediction: The Cowboys have looked nearly unbeatable at home and are going to be looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss in Tucson. While Utah Valley will come out with a similar mindset, the Cowboys are the team to beat if they’re playing like they have in eight of nine of their contests so far this season. If Wyoming can force a good amount of turnovers, limit UVU’s offensive rebounds, and control the tempo, they should win this game with relative ease. I like the Cowboys and the spread.

Final Score:

Wyoming 85

Utah Valley 70