Cowboys hang on late for 71-69 win over Northern Iowa
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release
HONOLULU -- The Wyoming Cowboys (10-2 Overall) used a strong second half downing Northern Iowa in the consolation bracket of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Simplifi Arena in Honolulu on Thursday by a score of 71-69.
The Pokes knocked down nine threes in the second frame on their way to the win and held on to the after a late surge from UNI. The Pokes will face either South Florida or Hawai’i in the consolation finals on Saturday at a time to be determined.
“I thought we did a really good job defensively in the first half and that allowed us to stay in the game,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “We are good shooting team to not make shots. We continued to shoot open shots and not hesitate and we created opportunity. We found a way to win and move onto the next one.”
The trio of Hunter Maldonado, Graham Ike and Drake Jeffries led the Cowboys with helped off the bench from Brendan Wenzel. Maldonado added 17 points to lead the team along with seven rebounds and six assists. Jeffries added 16 threes with four three pointers. Ike added 12 points going 5-of-5 from the field. Wenzel added nine.
The Pokes struggled from the arc in the first half but finished the game shooting 40 percent after going 13-of-30 in the second half. The Pokes held Northern Iowa to 3-of-10 from behind the arc in the second half. The Pokes scored 19 points off turnovers in the victory.
The Panthers and Cowboys both got off to a fast start offensively. Wyoming opened the game 4-of-6 from the field, but UNI went a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc and held an early 10-9 advantage. The Pokes would go on a scoring drought of over three minutes, as the Panthers would build a 14-11 advantage.
A behind-the-back pass finding Kenny Foster for a layup and a layup himself, Maldonado would help the Pokes take a 15-14 lead with 11:20 left in the half. The Pokes would then go without a field goal for nearly three minutes with the Panthers building a 21-17 lead.
The Pokes would go one of nine from the field during a stretch, but a three from Drake Jeffries made it a one-point game and another by Jeffries made it a 25-23 game for the Pokes with 3:11 left in the first half. Both offenses would struggle late in the half, but a buzzer beating three-pointer from Maldonado gave Wyoming a 28-27 lead into the break.
The Cowboys opened the second half with a pair of threes from Xavier DuSell and Maldonado to make it a 34-27 game. Maldonado then answered a UNI three to make it a 37-30 game two minutes into the second frame.
Hunter Thompson would help the Pokes push the lead to 11 points at 45-34 with a pair of three pointers with just over 13 minutes left in the game. The Pokes hit five to that point of the half, more that the first half and whole contest against Stanford.
The Panthers went on a 5-0 run to make it a five-point game at 49-44, but a three-pointer from Jeffries and a slam from Ike off a slick pass from Maldonado pushed the lead to 54-44 with 7:49 left in the contest. The Panthers went on a 6-0 run after that and was halted by a three from DuSell to push it to 60-52 Cowboys at the 5:36 mark of the half.
Northern Iowa added an 8-0 run forcing four turnovers to make it a 65-60 game for the Pokes with 1:39 left in the contest. Guard Brendan Wenzel added a pair of free throws to make it a seven-point game, but a three pointer from UNI pushed the lead back to four at 67-63 with 50 seconds left.
The Panther continued to push with Austin Phyfe adding a layup with nine seconds left to make it a 71-69 game in favor of the Pokes. The Cowboys would miss free throws but held on for the 71-69 win.
Northern Iowa was led by Nate Heise with 19 points and eight rebounds.
The Wyoming Cowboys will finish the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas Day against either South Florida or Hawai’i in a time to be determined.
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