Cowboys bust out late-game heroics once again
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release
LARAMIE -- The Cardiac Cowboys, who trailed by 10-points early in the second half rallied back and defeated Utah State in overtime 78-76 on Tuesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
The Cowboys moved to 20-3 overall and 9-1 in the conference and are tied for first place in the Mountain West. The Pokes move to 6-0 this season in contests decided by two points. It was the largest comeback for the Pokes this season.
Wyoming moves to 3-0 this season in overtime and recorded their 24th 20-win season with the victory.
“I don’t mean to make a habit of it (getting two technical fouls and having to leave the game), but I felt like I needed to fight for our guys,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “That was an all-star officiating crew tonight, and it is a hard job to officiate college basketball. I have a lot of respect for those guys, but I felt like I needed to stick up for my players.
“To see what our team did the second half against one of the best offensive teams in the country (Utah State), holding them to 40 percent shooting, I’m very proud of our guys. The crowd played a big, big factor again in this win. This is a special team, a special team.”
Graham Ike, like he did at Utah State, knocked in a bucket in the closing seconds of the game -- this time in overtime. He added a double-double with 28 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth of the season. He also tied the contest in the closing seconds of regulation.
Hunter Maldonado added 23 points for his fourth 20-plus game in his last five games. He also added five assists on the night. Drake Jeffries recorded his first career double-double 12 points and 13 rebounds for a career-high on the boards.
Wyoming shot 50 percent from the field with the Aggies shooting 48 percent. The Pokes lost the battle on the glass for the first time in seven games 36-31. Wyoming went 22-of-32 from the free throw line on the night.
The Pokes used the paint early for three baskets with two from and one from Maldonado for a 6-5 lead two plus minutes in. Brandon Horvath added five points for the Aggies to open the game. Maldonado went down with an injury and Ike was tagged with two fouls and Linder was ejected from the contest.
Utah State would then go on an 8-0 run to take a 13-6 lead. Wyoming would answer with a 7-3 run making it a 16-13 game for the Aggies with 14:28 left in the half. Wyoming went on another 7-3 run to run to make it a one-point game at 21-20.
A quick 5-0 run with a Maldonado jumper and a Brendan Wenzel three-pointer made it a 26-25 lead for the Pokes. Utah State later went on a 9-3 run to take a 36-32 lead with 4:21 left in the first frame. The Pokes would cut it to a one-point game at the free throw line at 36-35, but the Aggies finished the half with a 40-36 lead.
Utah State opened the lead up to 48-38 in the opening 90 seconds of the first half hitting three-straight field goals. Ike answered with a 6-0 run himself over 1:45 for a 48-44 game for Utah State with 16:44 left in the game.
The Aggies went scoreless for over four minutes with the Pokes for over three, but Utah State added a three-pointer to make it a 51-44 game with 13:57 remaining.
Maldonado added a free throw followed by a three pointer and an Ike freebie made it a one-point deficit for the Pokes at 51-50 with 12:51 remaining. Jeremiah Oden tied the contest at 53-53 nearly halfway through the half with a pair from the free throw line.
Jeffries gave the Pokes a 58-57 lead with a three-pointer with 8:05 left in the game. He would later give the Pokes a 62-59 lead with a jumper with 6:13 left in the game. But Justin Bean added back-to-back buckets for a 63-62 USU lead a minute later.
The Pokes would take a brief lead, but Bean would add a free throw and a bucket for a 66-64 lead for the Aggies with 2:48 left. Ike tied the contest, but Bean added a slam for a 68-66 game for USU with 2:03 left.
Ike tied the contest 16 seconds left with a pair of free throws for a 68-68 game. The Aggies had a chance late, but time ran out and the contest went to overtime.
Maldonado added an and-one and Ike added a free throw for an early 72-68 lead in overtime. But the Aggies battled back with a 4-0 run and tied the game at 74-74 with 1:25 left. Both teams traded buckets and Ike added an offensive rebound to give Wyoming a 78-76 lead with six seconds left.
The Pokes forced a miss from the Aggies and walked away with their 11-straight win in the Dome of Doom.
The Aggies were led Horvath 20 points and adding eight. Bean added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Wyoming takes to the road, traveling to San Jose State on Saturday for a 7 p.m. tip time inside the Provident Credit Union Event Center.