Coming off a two-game Gulf South Conference stretch that included one of the best wins of the season, the University of West Georgia men's basketball team is back on the road for a Mississippi swing over the next three days.
The Wolves open things up this evening against Delta State in an 8:30 showdown at Walter Sillers Coliseum in Cleveland before traveling to Clinton on Saturday for a 5 p.m. clash at Mississippi College.
West Georgia (9-11, 4-9 GSC) is still looking for its first road win of the season, and head coach Michael Cooney understands the challenge of trying to do so in a hostile environment such as DSU (9-12, 7-6).
The Statesmen feature the No. 1 scoring defense in the GSC at 63.5 points per game, however they are also the lowest scoring offense in the league at 63.2 points per outing.
In what will serve as a major contrast in styles, Cooney is hopeful that his ballclub handles the matchup better than it did in a 76-56 setback in Carrollton back on Dec. 18.
"What they did at our place was they ran the shot clock down every time and they made sure that they kept us on defense the whole game. We're going to have to make some adjustments for the game (tonight). We can't allow them to do that," Cooney said. "On the other hand, when we've been patient as we were on Thursday night, we made West Alabama defend and if we can do that against Delta we can turn the tables on them a little bit. We're obviously a fast-break team and we want to get all the fast breaks we can get, but when the defense is back we've just got to be patient."
Cooney said freshman Greg James will be a game-time decision and junior forward Vinko Glavan stayed back in Carrollton due to illness as the grind of a long season is an opponent all teams are facing with the calendar flipping to February.
"I know my guys are beat up just from it being that time of the year. We played a heck of a game Thursday night and then we just didn't have a lot in the tank on Saturday," Cooney said. "It was disappointing because I thought we created such a good opportunity for ourselves.
"Now Delta State is going to try to hammer us and we're going to need to play our best to have a chance to win this game on the road."
The Statesmen are led by senior forward P.J. Davis and junior guard Brett Warner, who have been mainstays on the court for DSU during their collegiate careers.
Davis, who is averaging 15.6 points this year, currently owns the school-record for blocks, ranks 13th on the all-time scoring list and 10th in career rebounding. Warner, meanwhile, leads the Delta State offense at 16.6 points per game, which is No. 8 in the GSC this season.
Junior guard Marquill Smith continues to lead the charge for the UWG offense at 21.8 points per game, which ranks second in the GSC.
Cooney said while his offense can score in bunches, it needs to work on becoming more patient when the fast break attack isn't there.
"We've got to work for good shots and I think if we're going to make a run at this last part of the season, that's an area where we've really got to improve. I feel like we're getting better defensively. We had some defensive breakdowns in the game on Saturday, but as a whole our defense is better," Cooney said.
Looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with the Choctaws (9-9, 6-7), it will be more of what the Wolves are accustomed to with an upbeat tempo.
"They're playing better, can shoot the ball well. That's a whole different style of basketball than the one we're going to play Thursday," Cooney said. "We've just got to try to take these games one at a time."