LARAMIE, Wyo. — Allen Edwards likes to use the word “aggressive” rather than “fast” or “up-tempo.” But however you word it, the second-year coach has brought a different speed to the Wyoming men’s basketball team.
Now, Edwards’ Pokes are adding another gear.
With Edwards trying out some new lineups to keep senior forwards Alan Herndon and Hayden Dalton fresh, the Cowboys, at times, are using a slower offense that runs more through the post.
“Because when we have me and Drew in there, as opposed to Al and H.D., we have a different kind of strategy,” junior Jordan Naughton said. “We’re looking more to try to get post touches and scoring inside and things like that, as opposed to having them two out there. They’re trying to space the floor because obviously Al and H.D. can both shoot the 3 and they can both also score inside.
“So it’s a little different mentality for the guards as well and what they’re trying to do and things like that. It’s a little different, but I think it’s good to have two different type of things like that.”
Naughton and sophomore Andrew Moemeka, Wyoming’s most traditional post players, had not even seen the floor together much in practice until recently.
“We’ve had a few practices where we first started implementing this new idea, and it’s been going good so far,” Naughton said. “We still have some things to work out like spacing and just being on the same page, things like that, but it’s pretty new.”
It’s an adjustment for a Wyoming team that has relied on skilled bigs like Herndon and Dalton to both run and space the floor.
“Like, there were situations in the game where Coach would put (Justin James) in, and J.J., he’s more of a fast, up-paced tempo kind of guy,” Moemeka said. “And Coach is trying to explain to him and guys like Lou (Adams) that it’s a slower offense, so you really don’t want to try to attack as much, because it’s so clogged in the paint.
“So I think we’ll just get used to it, just getting used to knowing that when me and J. Naught are in at the same time, it’s more of an offensive break for our guards.”
Naughton had been a regular starter for Wyoming last year, but he hadn’t played much this season until Wyoming’s game against South Carolina, when Edwards wanted to to take advantage of his size. Naughton has now played 12 or more minutes in three straight games after playing a combined 13 minutes in the first eight games.
“It’s just a different role that you’re playing on the team,” Naughton said. “Either you’re in the game contributing on the court, or you can be on the bench supporting guys or in practice battling with the guys or just trying get them better that way. So either way, it’s not really tough or anything like that. It’s just a different aspect of the game.”
Moemeka expected to have a greater role coming into this season, which the new lineups could provide.
“It gave me a chance to show that I can actually use my perimeter defense a lot more throughout the game,” he said. “I actually liked that coach is getting me outside of just where the traditional center would be, at the middle of the paint or middle of the zone. So I can switch up lineups a lot, and I think that’s great to help show some versatility.”
Against Eastern Washington, however, Edwards went with Buddah Jones in place of Moemeka, which he said was a coach’s decision. Still, Wyoming scored 56 points in the paint that game, its most since 2010.
“I think Andrew, he has a high ceiling, and he still, to me, at the end of the day has to understand how to get to that ceiling or how he affects the game,” Edwards said. “It is with his energy and his activity, and most of the times I’m getting on him is because of the edge and being alert to be able to do the things that he’s capable of doing.”
Theoretically, being able to play Naughton and Moemeka together could give Wyoming a more diverse set of matchups, as well as resting the senior stretch 4s more.
“I think that having Coach split up the lineups with Al and H.D. and me and Jordan, that definitely gives them a lot more time to capitalize on what they do best,” Moemeka said. “And at the same time, we can capitalize on what we do best.”
However, Naughton and Moemeka could potentially see their roles increase for another reason. Herndon left Tuesday’s game with an injury and Edwards said the team wouldn’t know until the next morning how severe it was.