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December 23, 2008UCLA (8-2) will host a Wyoming (9-1) basketball team that is off to its best start since the 1990-91 season and they will be coming into Pauley Pavilion on a roll winning their last four games in row. On paper the Cowboys appear to be a formidable foe.
"Wyoming is very talented," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They have four guys that average over 15 points per game so they have some guys who can put the ball in basket.
Howland is kidding when he talks about Wyoming's skill level. The Cowboy's squad features the top scorer, the top rebounder, top assist man and top three-point shooter for the usually pretty tough Mountain West Conference.
Redshirt freshman forward Afam Muojeke (6-7, 201) is the leading scorer in the MWC averaging 18.6 points per game (ppg) while hitting 48.8 percent from the field. He also chips in 4.6 rebounds per game (rpg).
Senior forward Tyson Johnson (6-6, 248) is the Mountain West's leading rebounder with an average of 9.5 rpg. Johnson is a threat offensively averaging 15.1 ppg while 52.2 percent of his shots.
Senior point guard Brandon Ewing leads the MWC in assists averaging 6.40 apg and when he's not dishing the ball, the dangerous Ewing can score, too, as he averages 17.2 ppg, good for second on the team.
Redshirt senior Sean Ogirri leads the MWC in three-point field goals per game averaging 3.80 threes a game. He averages 15.6 ppg and he is deadly from the foul line, hitting 95.7 percent of his foul shots.
Ogirri comes into this game on fire as he is the current MWC Player of the Week. He has scored 51 points in Wyoming's last two games. That total includes a career high 26 against Western State and 25 against Sacramento State. He hit seven three-pointers in each of those games.
The player who started the majority of games at center is sophomore Mikhail Linskens (7-0, 270). He averages 16 minutes per game (mpg). He has a team high of 13 blocked shots, averages 3.6 ppg and 5.0 rpg.
Other key players off the bench are sophomore forward transfer Djibril Thiam (6-9, 205), redshirt frosh center Adam Waddell (6-9, 228), true freshman guard A.J. Davis (6-5, 195) and junior forward Mahamoud Diakite (6-7, 223) .
Thiam has played in only three games due to NCAA transfer rules. He started his college career at Baylor University before transferring to Wyoming. In his three games as a Cowboy, one a start, he has one double-double and he is averaging 23.7 mpg, 7.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg.
Waddell is averaging 19.3 mpg, 6.9 ppg and 4.6 rpg, Davis is averaging 13.4 mpg, and 3.1 ppg, while Diakite is averaging 11.7 mpg and 1.8 ppg.
As a team the Cowboys are averaging 84.2 ppg, while shooting almost 50 percent (47.6) on their threes. They average 4.8 more rpg than their opposition, plus they average over six steals per game and 5.7 blocked shots a game.
The Bruins and the Cowboys have played two common opponents. Both the Bruins and the Cowboys beat both of their common opponents. The Cowboys beat Prairie View 80-75. The Bruins beat Prairie View by a 14 point margin.
The other common opponent was Loyola Marymount. Wyoming beat LMU 62-55, while the Bruins beat an injured Lions team by 31 points.
Howland definitely isn't taking Wyoming lightly.
"I like their team," Howland said. "They have four guys all who are averaging over 15 points per game and that is pretty impressive."
Look for Michael Roll to start in the place of the injured Josh Shipp, as Shipp still has some swelling. He did not practice, though he did shoot some, but he is considered doubtful.