Pokes, Rebels to square off Thursday in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- The Cowboys head to Las Vegas to take on UNLV in the Quarterfinals of the 2022 Air Force Reserve Mountain West Championships. Wyoming is the fourth seed in the tournament and the Runnin’ Rebels landed in fifth.
The contest will be played inside the Thomas & Mack Center and is set for a 3:30 p.m. MT start on CBS Sports Network.
Fans can listen to the contest, as well as follow stats on GoWyo.com. The contest will be broadcast live on radio over the 26 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, as Reece Monaco will have the call with Kevin McKinney on color.
About The Teams
The Pokes head into the tournament with a 24-7 overall record and finished 13-5 in conference play.
It is the most regular season wins since having 25 during the 1951-52 season. The 13 wins in conference are also the most in the MW era of Cowboy basketball.
The Pokes led the conference and ranked No. 39 in the nation, recording 450 made free throws. Wyoming held opponents to 41.5 percent from the field to rank fourth in the MW this season. The Cowboys shot 46.2 percent from the field to rank third in the conference.
Wyoming recorded 10.7 turnovers per game to rank second in the conference and No. 36 in the nation.
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The Rebels closed the regular season strong, winning four of their final six games. UNLV resides in the middle of the league in both scoring (70.3 points per game) and points allowed (65.8 points per contest).
The Rebels connect on 42.7 percent of their field-goal attempts, which ranks second worst in the league, however, they hold foes to 41.1 percent shooting and that’s third-best in the conference. UNLV hits on 34.1 percent of its 3-point attempts and holds opponents to 31.5 percent shooting from deep.
About The Players
Wyoming is led by scoring this season by Graham Ike at 19.9 per game to rank second in the league and No. 21 in the nation. He also leads the team in rebounds at 9.6 per game for second in the MW and No. 20 in the nation. He is one of three players in the nation to average over 19.9 points per game and nine or more rebounds.
Hunter Maldonado adds 18.7 points per game to rank fifth in the MW. He ranks second in the conference and ranks fifth in the nation with 6.4 assists per game. He recorded a triple-double against SDSU for the first one by a Cowboy since 2006 and became the single-season assists leader with 192.
Drake Jeffries adds 10.4 points per night and ranks No. 22 in the nation shooting 42 percent from behind the arc.
Jeremiah Oden averages 8.1 per outing and Xavier DuSell sits just behind him at eight.
Those two didn't score in the first meeting with the Rebels, combining to go 0-9 from the field. Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said earlier this week he liked the shot selections. Sometimes, he added, they just don't go in.
"You have to give UNLV credit, they aren't lacking length and athleticism," he said. "They have a bunch of guys who were Big-12 transfers, and there's a reason why they went to the Big 12. You don't get to the Big 12 by not being a good athlete. So, they played a part."
The Rebels, who topped UW 64-57 back on March 2 during their lone meeting of the regular season, are led by Bryce Hamilton who pours in a Mountain West Conference-best 31.8 points per game, which also ranks sixth nationally. Hamilton adds 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest.
Wyoming held Hamilton to just 15 points, eight of which came from the free-throw line.
Surely that gives Linder confidence heading into this one, right?
"For the most part, we did a good job making it difficult for Hamilton and that's all you can do," he said. "I mean, you're not going to necessarily stop him. You have to do a good job of trying to get the ball out of his hands. He made some plays with the pass that hurt us, but it's going to be one of those deals where you are at the mercy of him missing or making shots."
Donovan Williams represents the only other Rebel who averages double figures, as he chips in 12.4 points per game. The Cowboys held Williams in check all night, allowing him to shoot just 1-for-5 from the field. He hit a 3-pointer and drained two free throws to finish with five points.
Royce Hamm Jr. leads UNLV, grabbing 9.3 rebounds per contest, which ranks third in the MWC, while Jordan McCabe dishes out a team-best 4.9 assists per game.
Hamm hurt the Cowboys from deep, sinking three triples. Justin Webster also added 11 off the bench.
"Some of the little mistakes that we made, you know, it was death by 1,000 paper cuts," Linder said. "So, hopefully, with some rest and a little bit more prep time, we can cut down on those mistakes. We won't play a perfect game, but we can cut down some of our mistakes and we'll give ourselves a better chance."
About The Series
UNLV has dominated the all-time series, 42-19. These two have been playing one another since 1966. The Rebels have won seven of the last 10 meetings.
The Pokes and Rebels have met just one time in the Mountain West Tournament. That came back in 2005 when UNLV pulled off the 70-63 win inside Denver's Pepsi Center.
Wyoming hasn't beaten the Rebels on their home court since 2003. That's a streak of 19 straight losses.
"It's a neutral game," Linder said despite the game being played in the Rebels home arena. "So, we're not looking into it as we're having to go play UNLV on their home court. I mean, it is what it is. We just know that we only control what we can control and just go out there and try to play as best as we can, regardless of who it is."
If Wyoming wins, the Cowboys will play the winner of a game between top-seeded Boise State and No. 8-seeded Nevada/No. 9-seeded New Mexico.
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release contributed to this report