ST. THOMAS, USVI (Nov. 16, 2022) – The Cowboys shot 62 percent from the field for the best percentage since 2014 in a 78-71 comeback win over Howard in the opening round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam on Friday afternoon in the USVI Sports and Fitness Center in St., Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Guard Hunter Maldonado scored a season-high 28 points in the contest, as Wyoming trailed by eight in the contest.

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“I was proud of the effort tonight from our guys,” Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said. “After coming off a tough game against SELA sometimes you need a spark and I thought tonight in the second half we showed what we could do. We showed a lot more collective grit and toughness. I thought (Xavier) DuSell and (Jake) Kyman gave us that tonight, as they haven’t played a lot this season but came into the game in the second half and did a tremendous job."

Wyoming’s field-goal percentage was the highest since shooting 62 percent against Northern Colorado in the season opener in 2014. Wyoming was 7-of-13 from beyond the arc. Howard shot 46 percent from the field and were held to 39 percent in the second half. The Bison had an advantage on the glass 28-25.

Maldonado’s 28 points marked his 24th career game with 20 or more points. He shot 10-of-10 from the field. Guard Ethan Anderson added 11 points for the Cowboys tying with Maldonado for the team lead with four rebounds. He also added three assists. Kyman added nine points off the bench alongside Max Agbonkpolo.

The Pokes would use a 5-0 run to build a 10-5 lead in the opening four minutes of play. Guard Brendan Wenzel did the damage for the Pokes with a pair of threes with Anderson and Maldonado adding layups. But the Bison would battle back with a pair of three-pointers.

Howard would continue the hot shooting lead by Jelani Williams, as he helped the Bison build a 22-20 lead halfway through the first half. A free throw from Agbonkpolo and a layup from Maldonado would give the Cowboys a 23-22 lead with 9:54 left in the first half.

Wyoming held the Bison scoreless for over four minutes but could only build the lead to four points at 26-22. Howard then went on a 9-0 run to take a 31-26 advantage with just under four minutes left in the first half. Forward Jeremiah Oden ended the scoreless drought for the Pokes and Maldonado added a slam for a 31-30 game for Howard with 2:13 left in the half.

Howard would make a push late finishing the half on a 7-2 run for a 38-32 lead at the half. Wyoming shot 60 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes but recorded eight turnovers/ Howard shot 52 percent and hit six three-pointers in the half.

The Pokes battled back within a bucket thanks to a pair of baskets from Maldonado to open the second frame. Agbonkpolo hit a triple for a 42-41 game near the 16-minute mark of the second frame. Kyman and Anderson would then attack the basket and help the Pokes make it a 47-44 game for the Brown and Gold with 14:10 remaining in the game.

Howard would take the advantage back with 12 minutes left, but Maldonado added a layup for a 52-51 lead with under 11 minutes left in the game. The two teams would then exchange the lead over the next two minutes until Howard hit a three pointer for a 58-54 game with 8:45 left.

A Maldonado highlight reel slam and a bucket from Anderson gave the Pokes a 61-60 lead with 6:27 left in the game. Maldonado would make it a three-point game with a pair of free throws with under six minutes left. But the Bison would battle back once again to take a 64-63 lead with 4:27 left.

The Pokes would take back the lead and build it to three-points at 67-64 with 2:59 left on a pair of freebies from Kyman. Maldonado would make it a 69-64 game with 1:46 at the free throw line, but the lead was cut back to three points seconds later. Guard DuSell hit a three from the corner off a pass from Maldonado for a 74-66 lead with 44 seconds left.

Anderson would all but seal the game with a steal and a slam, as Wyoming took the contest 78-71.

The Bison were led by four scorers in double-figures led by Elijah Hawkins with 17 points. Steve Settle added 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds.

The Cowboys advance to the semifinals to take on Drake at 3:45 MT on ESPN3.

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