* University of Wyoming press release

EL PASO, Texas – The Wyoming Cowboys dropped a battle to an old foe on Thursday falling to UTEP by a score of 78-67 in the championship game of the Weststar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

The contest was a physical one with 52 fouls being called between the two teams.

Get our free mobile app

“We knew they played hard, and this is a hard place to play," Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said. "I felt we took a big step yesterday, but to win a road game you have to have a level of maturity. It will be a learning opportunity. We have done some good things in the preseason.

"Our guys fight and we were right there, but we couldn’t get over the hump."

The Pokes shot 34 percent from the field on the night, as Wyoming came into the game as the nation’s top three-point percentage but were held to only 22 percent on the night. UTEP shot 48 percent from the field. The Cowboys held a 35-30 lead on the glass, but UTEP scored 22 points off turnovers in the contest.

Wyoming was led by Mason Walters with 16 points for a season-high and most in his Wyoming career. Akuel Kot added 14 points in the contest. Brendan Wenzel added 11 points for the Cowboys along with 11 points from Sam Griffin. Caden Powell added eight points and led team with 11 rebounds.

The Miners got off to an early 8-4 lead on the Cowboys in the opening five minutes. Wyoming struggled from the field going 2-of-8 from the floor. UTEP extended the lead to 12-6 and kept the Pokes scoreless for over two minutes until Kot added a triple for a 12-9 contest with 12 minutes left in the half.

Wyoming would make it a 12-11 game, but the lead was pushed back to three-points at 14-11 halfway through the opening frame. Wyoming would use a 14-2 run over nearly five minutes to take a 20-14 lead with under eight minutes left in the half. Walters was key from the line during the stretch along with Kot from behind the arc.

UTEP would battle back to make it a two-point game, but a three-pointer from Sam Griffin pushed the lead back to five points. But the Cowboys went scoreless for the final 3:25 of the first half, as UW took a 26-25 lead into the half. Wyoming shot only 32 percent from the field in the frame with UTEP shooting 37 percent.

The Miners would take the lead in the early minutes of the second half using a pair of three pointers. Wyoming took a brief lead back, but 6-0 run by UTEP made it a 41-36 game with under 14 minutes left in the contest.

The Miners took a seven-point lead at 50-43 on a transition slam with under 10 minutes left in the contest. Wyoming went over seven minutes without a basket, as UTEP built an 11-point lead at 62-51. Kobe Newton ended the drought with a three-pointer.

The Miners were led Zid Powell with 30 points in the game

The Cowboys return to action on Dec. 30 wrapping up non-conference play on the road at BYU. The contest is slated for a 4 p.m. start on ESPN-plus.

POKES: The Seven Best Games In The History Of The Wyoming-CSU Border War Rivalry (Naturally, they were all Wyoming wins)

More From 7220 Sports