Cowboys, Broncos clash tonight in MW semifinals
LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- The No. 4 Wyoming Cowboys advance to the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament and are set to play top-seeded Boise State.
The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. MT tip time inside the Thomas & Mack Center. The contest will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Fans can listen to the contest, as well as follow stats on GoWyo.com. The contest will be broadcast live on radio over the 26 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, as Reece Monaco will have the call with Kevin McKinney on color.
About The Teams
With their win Thursday, the Pokes are now 25-7 overall on the season and 13-5 in conference play.
The 24 regular-season wins are the most since tallying 25 during the 1951-52 season. The 13 wins in conference are also the most in the MW era of Cowboy basketball.
The Pokes led the conference and ranked No. 39 in the nation recording 450 made free throws. Wyoming held opponents to 41.5 percent from the field to rank fourth in the MW this season.
The Cowboys shot 46.2 percent from the field to rank third in the conference. Wyoming recorded 10.7 turnovers per game to rank second in the conference and No. 36 in the nation.
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Boise State won the regular-season crown after posting a 15-3 record in the Mountain West Conference and a 25-7 overall record.
The Broncos average 62.2 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting. They boast the league’s third-best defense, holding foes to 61 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting. Boise State hits 35.1 percent of their field-goal attempts from 3-point land and hold their foes to 32.3 percent from deep.
Leon Rice's squad leads the league in offensive rebounding, pulling down 10.4 boards a game.
"With Boise, you know, that's the same system that I came up with," Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said. "With Leon, when I was at (Boise), there's a reason why they're a really good rebounding team. There's a reason why we're a really good rebounding
team. It's the same system. So it just comes down to who can do it better."
About The Players
Wyoming is led by scoring this season by Graham Ike at 19.6 per game to rank second in the league and No. 21 in the nation. He also leads the team in rebounds at 9.7 per game for second in the MW and No. 20 in the nation. Ike, who netted 11 points in Thursday's 59-56 quarterfinals victory over UNLV, is one of three players in the nation to average over 19.6 points per game and nine or more rebounds.
Hunter Maldonado adds 18.4 points per game to rank fifth in the MW. He ranks second in the conference and sits fifth in the nation with 6.2 assists per game. He recorded a triple-double against SDSU for the first one by a Cowboy since 2006 and became the single season assists leader with 192. He now has 197 overall for the season.
The Colorado Springs native also added 11 points in the win over the Rebels and his fifth assist of the day made him the new all-time leader in Wyoming history in that category, surpassing Sean Dent's former record of 502.
Drake Jeffries adds 10.3 points per night and ranks No. 22 in the nation shooting 41.2 percent from behind the arc. Xavier DuSell, Thursday's hero, averages eight points per outing. He hit that number against UNLV, the final three points coming with just 30 seconds left to vault the Cowboys into the semifinals.
Brendan Wenzel led all UW scorers with 12 and pulled down a career-high seven rebounds.
The Broncos boast a balanced scoring attack featuring four players who average double figures. That grouping is led by Abu Kigab, who pours in 14.6 points per game to go alongside 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Marcus Shaver Jr. also stuffs the stat sheet, averaging 14 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest. Emmanuel Akot averages 10.8 points and a team-best 2.9 assists per game, while Tyson Degenhart chips in 10.2 points per game.
Akot was the star of the show in the Broncos 71-69 victory over Nevada Thursday, drilling 8-of-15 shots, including four 3-pointers, in a 22-point effort.
About The Series
Boise State leads the all-time series, 20-15. These two programs have faced off since 1979.
The Broncos have won eight of the last 10 matchups, including a 65-62 victory inside ExtraMile Arena back in late January. Wyoming repaid the favor just nine days later in Laramie, holding on late for the 72-65 win.
"I think it's going to be fun," Maldonado said. "Obviously, they're a great team -- they ended up winning the conference season title. Like I said, they're a great team. They get after it defensively. They sit down and try to hold teams to 50, 60 points.
"For us, we're obviously going to have to replicate this defensive performance."
These teams have only met once in the conference tournament. The Pokes outlasted the Broncos 71-66 in the semifinals of the 2015 tourney. UW, led by Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Adams, would go on to beat San Diego State in the title game and punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Linder was an assistant coach at Boise State at the time.
If Wyoming wins, the Cowboys would advance to the Mountain West Conference tournament title game against either SDSU or Border War rival, Colorado State. The Cowboys fell to the Aztecs in their lone meeting this season. UW split the season series against the Rams, with both teams winning on their home floor.
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release contributed to this report
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