Pokes catch fire from deep, take down UNLV, 80-69
LARAMIE -- The Wyoming Cowboys ended the regular season in style late Saturday night, shooting a season-high 55.1 percent (27-for-49) from the floor and made 10-of-20 from 3-point range on their way to an 80-69 victory over UNLV.
Both teams shot the ball well on the night as UNLV hit 54 percent (27-for-50) of its shots, but went just 3-of-13 (23 percent) from 3-point range.
UNLV led only once in the game, at 3-2 just over a minute into the game, and committed 17 turnovers, leading to 16 Cowboy points.
“I thought collectively we did a really good job tonight. Going into the game, the big emphasis was to take away the 3-point line, just a credit to the guys on understanding the game plan on a quick turnaround,” said UW head coach Jeff Linder.
Graham Ike led the Cowboys with a game-high 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor while also adding six rebounds. Drake Jeffries added 14 points and went 4-of-6 from beyond-the-arc in the win. Hunter Maldonado and Hunter Thompson each added 12 points on the night with Maldonado stuffing the stat sheet as he added a game-high nine rebounds to go along with five assists, a block and a pair of steals.
Wyoming hit five of its final six shots of the first half and helped turn a 21-21 tie with 10:25 to play in the half, into a 43-34 lead heading into the locker room.
Both teams shot well from the floor in the first 20 minutes as the Cowboys shot 56.7 percent from the floor (17-of-30) and hit 6-of-10 shots from 3-point range while UNLV hit 13-of-23 shots (56.5 percent) but went just 1-of-7 from beyond-the-arc.
The Cowboys opened the second half the way they left off the first. After the Rebels scored the first basket of the half, Wyoming went on an 11-0 run, thanks in part to back-to-back 3-pointers from Thompson and UW led 54-36 with 16:42 to play, forcing a UNLV timeout.
Following the timeout, the Cowboys continued to pour it on, lengthening their lead to 63-42 with 9:49 left to play, the 21-point margin was their largest lead of the contest. Wyoming led by a comfortable margin the rest of the game with UNLV chipping away at the lead late, cutting the Cowboy advantage down to 75-63 with 1:42 left to play, and forcing a Wyoming timeout.
Out of the timeout, a UNLV layup made it 75-65 but a Xavier DuSell free throw and a layup by Kenny Foster put the Cowboys back up by 13. UNLV hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in the contest to make the score 78-68 and then sent Jeffries to the free-throw line where he sank both to help ice the game for the Cowboys.
“There’s a collective grit and toughness you have to have. It’s a privilege to be able play at Wyoming, it’s about the name across the front of the jersey. I think we have a group of guys in the locker room that are starting to figure that out,” continued Linder. “Heading into the Mountain West Tournament, at the end of the day it’s about us, it’s about the defensive end of the floor for us to be successful. We’ve shown that we can score, but we’ve got to bring it defensively.”
Regarding his thoughts on the challenging season as a whole, Linder praised his student-athletes and staff.
“It’s been a really hard year, I’m just proud of the maturity the team has shown every day to make sure they were ready to play every game this year. The credit goes to them to show up every day and be ready and to the whole staff, the support staff, our trainer Dallas, everyone to get through the season.”
Wyoming will be the No. 8 seed heading into the Air Force Reserve Mountain West Tournament. The Cowboys will face ninth-seeded San Jose State in the opening round Wednesday, March 10 at noon Mountain Time in Las Vegas.
* University of Wyoming press release
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