Pokes overcome second-half deficit, knock off Utah Valley, 74-62
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release
LARAMIE -- The Wyoming Cowboys outscored Utah Valley 19-7 in the final six minutes in a 74-62 win Saturday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. In a contest that featured two teams receiving votes in the latest NCAA Coaches’ Top-25 Poll the Cowboys improve to 9-1 on the season and remain perfect at home this season.
“I thought our guys did a really good job of weathering the storm tonight,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “We’ve been in these situations before where we’ve had double-digit leads and then they’ve dwindled. Tonight (Utah Valley) took the lead in the second half, but our guys stayed the course. I thought the last eight minutes, we made a ton of money plays.”
“On a night like this where the weather is not very good outside and to have the students show up the way they did and have the energy in the building went a long, long way. Thank you to all the people who showed up, and thank you to the students. It makes a big, big difference having that energy in the gym.”
The Cowboys had five players in double-figures for the first time since the Arkansas-Pine Bluffs game. Guard Xavier DuSell led the way with 16 points. He added four three pointers. Guard Drake Jeffries added 15 points with five triples in the contest. DuSell and Jeffries have combined for 63 three pointers more than 86 teams in the nation this season.
Forward Graham Ike added 13 points and led the Pokes with nine rebounds. Six of Ike’s nine rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor. Guard Brendan Wenzel recorded a career-high 12 points of the bench and added eight points in the final three-plus minutes. Guard Hunter Maldonado added 10 points and led the team five assists along with eight rebounds.
“If you look at the stat line, (Fardaws) Aimaq hasn’t had a stat line like that very often,” Linder said. “He only had 14 (points) and five (rebounds), and he came into the game averaging 20 points and 14 rebounds. What Graham (Ike) did defensively was huge and, down the stretch, Graham just out-worked him, beat him to balls and made those winning plays with his own offensive rebounds (six on the night). And then (Hunter) Thompson, (Brendan) Wenzel and J.O. (Jeremiah Oden) -- the job they did on the four-man for Utah Valley was big. They did a good job of understanding the game plan and keeping those guys off the glass.”
Wyoming shot 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. Utah Valley shot 48 percent and was 6-of-13 from beyond the arc in the second half. Wyoming held a 31-28 lead on the glass for the game. The Pokes also added 16 points off 11 turnovers. Wyoming record five turnovers for a season-low and the least since recording four against San Jose State last season in the MW Tournament.
The Pokes opened the contest 3-of-4 from the field to take an early 7-5 lead on the Wolverines. The lead was pushed to 10-5 at the 16:07 mark on DuSell’s second three-pointer of the game. He would add his third of the game from the corner to. Make it a 17-10 contest at the 13:21 mark.
DuSell would get to double-digits scoring, and the Pokes would take a double-digit lead at 23-13 with 11:24 left in the first frame. Jeffries added his first three-pointer of the game and Oden added a layup for a 30-17 Wyoming lead with 8:10 left in the first half.
Jeffries would break a scoreless drought of nearly three minutes for the Pokes with another triple for a 33-19 advantage for UW with just over five minutes left in the half. Utah Valley’s brief 4-0 run was halted by a three from Wenzel for a 36-25 led for the Pokes with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Maldonado would strip a Utah Valley player and take it down the floor before being fouled, as he knocked down a free throw to give Wyoming a 39-27 lead at the half. Wyoming shot 54 percent from the field in the half and scored eight points off turnovers.
Utah Valley opened the second frame with a pair of three-pointers and a layup to make it a 39-35 game in the opening two and a half minutes. A banked three-pointer for Utah Valley cut the Poke lead to 42-40 with 14 minutes left.
UVU would take the lead at 45-44 on a three from Asa McCord at the 12:10 mark of the half. Back-to-back layups from Ike and Maldonado would give the Pokes a. 50-49 lead with just over eight minutes left in the contest.
Jeffries added a corner three and Wenzel added a pair of freebies to five Wyoming a 55-52 lead with 6:24 left in the contest. Aimaq answered right back, but then the added four-straight three-pointers with two from Jeffries and one from both DuSell and Wenzel for a 67-55 lead with three minutes left.
Wenzel would add a slam to give Wyoming an 11-point lead to get to double figures with two minutes left. The Cowboys would seal the contest at the free throw line for a 74-62 win.
The Wolverines were led by Aimaq with 14 points. One of the nation’s top rebounders at 14.2 per game, Aimaq grabbed only five in the contest.
The Wyoming Cowboys take to the road and finish up non-conference play at the Diamond Head Classic. The Pokes open that tournament against Stanford on Dec. 22. That game is set for 3:30 p.m. inside SimpliFi Arena at the Sheriff Center.