Didn’t like seeing Linder get ejected? You might be alone
LARAMIE -- Didn't like seeing Jeff Linder get booted from Tuesday night's win over Utah State?
You might be the only one.
Well, you and Linder's wife, Kelli.
When you ask the players what they thought about their coach getting the gate for arguing a call with 15:50 left in the first half, you'll get a very different reaction.
"We just know how much he cares and how much he loves us and fights for us," said freshman forward Graham Ike, who finished with a game-high 28 points in the 78-76 overtime victory over visiting Utah State. "You know, it really means a lot to see that. I just love that man, everything he does for us.
"Each and every day we're fighting for him, fighting together. We're going to war together."
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Hunter Maldonado was in the training room when Linder said the wrong word to a nearby official and received his second technical foul in a matter of minutes. The redshirt junior sprained his ankle after running into Rylan Jones at midcourt.
Though Maldonado didn't witness the emotional exchange, he knows what followed. He re-entered the game and finished the night with 23 points and five assists in the win.
"I think it just fires us up, obviously," he said postgame. "... It fires us up and the crowd up. It gets us going."
The Aggies were already leading 8-6 after a sluggish start for the home team. When the dust settled, Steve Ashworth hit a pair of free throws and drained a triple to give Utah State a quick 13-6 advantage.
So, why did Wyoming's second-year head coach flip out in the first place?
Two quick fouls against Ike didn't help. A blocking foul under the basket called against Brendan Wenzel was the final straw.
"I didn't agree with those two calls that early on," Linder said. "... The two times I've gotten ejected my college career it's been sticking up for that guy, which you know, he's he's worth sticking up for."
That guy, of course, is Ike.
With 1:00 left on the clock in the first half of a game against New Mexico last February, the Aurora, Colo., got whistled for his third foul of a slugfest against the Lobos. Linder, once again, had an animated conversation with the officiating crew in Colorado Springs.
Once again, he was sent to the showers.
Wyoming, once again, pulled out an overtime victory.
Ken DeWeese stepped in for Linder in both instances. He said Tuesday night the Cowboys came out "a little bit flat." Couple that with the early foul trouble for Ike, an injury to Maldonado and Linder in the locker room, chaos would be a great word to describe the opening minutes of that crucial Mountain West tilt.
That wasn't exactly an issue if you ask DeWeese.
"I don't think we wanted to settle things down," he said. "I think we might have been too settled down to start that game. I think that gave us a little bit of fire. We made that early run that first five minutes after and we kind of settled into it."
After going down seven, Wyoming hit 5-of-6 shots, including 3-pointers from Hunter Thompson and Xavier DuSell, to climb back in it. In the end, DeWeese deployed an offensive scheme that has worked time and time again this season -- give the ball to Ike and "get the hell out of the way."
And by the way, Ike didn't pick up another foul over the final 25 minutes.
This team has a postgame tradition of handing out a white hardhat with Steamboat on each side. That honor is typically given to the guy who exhibits all-out effort and makes "winning plays."
It was an easy decision after this one.
"I was proud for them to give me the hardhat at the end of the game," Linder said with a smile. "I wasn't expecting that."
Wyoming (19-3, 9-1) will travel to San Jose State (7-16, 0-11) for a 7 p.m. tipoff Saturday night. The game can be seen on Stadium or the theMW.com.