University of Wyoming true freshman forward Graham Ike, left, looks for an opening while being defended by Nevada's Warren Washington during the Cowboys' 71-64 victory Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming’s upcoming series against first-place Utah State has been postponed due to "health and safety concerns," the Mountain West announced Tuesday morning. The Cowboys and Aggies were slated to play games in Logan, Utah on Wednesday and Friday.

It is the second conference series of the season to be postponed for the Cowboys (10-9 overall, 4-8 MW). UW’s conference-opening series against UNLV on Dec. 20 and 22 was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Runnin’ Rebels’ program.

A MW spokesperson told WyoSports that, "it looks challenging to make up both," the UNLV and Utah State series, but that, "things change weekly/daily (with the pandemic). Therefore, we have to keep the window of opportunity open for the time being."

Following the news of the latest postponement, UW coach Jeff Linder lauded his players and staff for their decision making in preventing outbreaks and for being "ready to play" every game this season. Per Linder, UW men's basketball has had just three positive COVID-19 cases since July 2020.

“The main thing throughout the course of this year was to make sure that we kept our guys safe, not just from COVID, but mentally as well,” Linder said. “We've done that, and so for us there's no need to put us in harm's way. That's my job, is to make sure I don't put our players in harm's way.

"Based off of kind of what's transpired. Maybe that risk is minimal, but it’s just not worth jeopardizing, especially when we’ve had so few cases.”

Utah State’s game with Fresno State last Saturday was postponed due to coronavirus protocols. Per the Herald Journal News, "the problem was with USU," though the team felt it was "good to go" against the Bulldogs following contact tracing.

"If they think that we're dodging trying to play them, well you can come look at my computer, and you can look at all the clips, and you can see how red my eyes were trying to figure out how we were going to score against them," Linder said.

The MW Tournament is scheduled to start in just about a month's time in Las Vegas. Questions about its feasibility given postponements during the regular season have started to emerge. Linder said part of the reason the series against the Aggies was postponed was to ensure his team a chance at playing games next month.

"I know there's a couple coaches, and one being Leon (Rice) in Boise, who would like for the number of teams to be lowered. And that's not fair for the kids like us who you've had to do everything we can to put ourselves in position to play games. And that’s what you’re fighting for, is to play," Linder said. "That’s one of the reasons we’re not going to Utah State … if you have somebody positive now, because I have a lot of guys that haven’t gotten COVID … we’re done.

"Now you're going two weeks out, return to play protocol three weeks, and now you're rolling into maybe the conference tournament without having played a game in three weeks. And you got no chance."

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