Jeff Linder, Pokes ready for a ‘real Border War’
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- The focus quickly shifted after Friday night's 63-61 last-second victory over Air Force inside Clune Arena.
It's no secret why.
"We've got the 'Sheep' coming into the Dome of Doom on Monday," Jeff Linder said.
Wyoming's second-year head coach, of course, is referring to Border War rival, Colorado State. Niko Medved and the Rams will pay a visit to the high plains for a 6 p.m. tipoff.
Linder is 0-2 against CSU during his brief UW tenure, dropping both games in Laramie last season.
He's not exactly placing an asterisk next to those two setbacks, but Linder did say with COVID-19 running rampant and limited fans in attendance, both teams were simply "trying to survive" a year ago.
Not this time.
"It's on. I mean, it's on," Linder said. "We have no excuses. I know they won't have any excuses. They have a very good team.
"... Our guys will be ready to go just like theirs. We're looking forward to a real Border War."
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Hunter Maldonado, who scored a game-high 31 points, including a buzzer-beating kiss of the glass to sink the Falcons in his hometown, said he wanted to go to CSU out of Vista Ridge High School.
Larry Eustachy passed, instead opting to go the junior college and transfer route.
Not one to show much emotion -- even moments after sinking a game winner -- Maldonado said there's no denying it, this meeting with the the Rams isn't just another game on the schedule.
"I think it's going to be great this year, obviously," the redshirt junior said. "With two powerhouses coming in -- us and them -- it's going to be a fun game. This is a pretty big game for us, but at the end of the day, it is a rivalry game. So, it's going to be a little bigger, but still just a game. We have to go out there and execute and do what we do. Because, at the end the day, if we do what we do and stick to our habits, we put ourselves in a good position."
Wyoming (16-3, 5-1) players and staff loaded onto the bus last night for the 197-mile trek back to Laramie. While cruising north in Interstate-25, the glow of the televisions inside could be seen by passing traffic. Inside, the Cowboys were glued to the tubes.
It took just few turns on the radio dial to figure out what they were watching.
UNLV's Bryce Hamilton was putting on a one-man clinic in Fort Collins, netting a career-high 45 points as the Rebels rolled to an easy 88-74 upset inside Moby Arena. That was the Rams first home loss in nearly a calendar year. Boise State pulled off a 78-56 win on Jan. 29, 2021.
CSU is now 16-2 overall and 6-2 in Mountain West play.
In the Cowboys last home game, more than 5,400 fans came through the turnstiles. That was one of the biggest crowds inside the Arena-Auditorium since the 2014-15 campaign.
Linder has bigger hopes for Monday night.
"Let's see 12,000 people in there on on Monday," he said, adding a verbal challenge to fans from Laramie, Cheyenne and all over the Cowboy State. "It will be a hell of a basketball game."
With a victory, Wyoming could essentially build a three-game cushion over the Rams in the conference standings. That could go a long way toward dancing in March, considering the Cowboys also have a meeting with the top-ranked Broncos Thursday night in Laramie.
Linder's group is also being realistic. There's at least a dozen games left on the schedule. Thirteen, to be exact, if the San Diego State game in Laramie gets rescheduled.
"The next game is the most important one," Linder said. "I mean, it doesn't matter whether that's Colorado State or San Jose State or Fresno State, it doesn't matter."