Tuck’s 10 takes: No. 22 Pokes ‘Housed’ in The Pit
ALBUQUERQUE -- Two words: Jaelen House.
The junior guard from Phoenix was deadly from deep. He slashed and gashed his way through the lane, finishing at the rim. His high-arching shots always seemed to fall.
Well, 12-of-21 of them, anyway.
House netted a game-high 34 points -- 22 of which came in the second half -- and his buddy Jamal Mashburn Jr. chipped in with 18 as New Mexico rolled to a 75-66 victory over No. 22 Wyoming Tuesday night inside the vaunted Pit in Albuquerque.
Jeff Linder said House put the Pokes "on skates" in the first meeting between these two longtime conference foes. He netted 18 in that January loss in Laramie.
Tonight, the visitors mostly just watched the show.
So, what happened?
"I mean, because he's a good player," Wyoming's second-year head coach bluntly said during his postgame press conference. "I mean, he's a guy that there's nights where he can make all those shots and they're really good. There's been a lot of nights where he doesn't make those shots and they're not as good. He's a tough matchup for us. He's a guy that's really shifty.
"He had what, 42, in his last game at Air Force? So, he's a guy that can really kind of move you and shake you. I thought the first half we did a decent job. In the second half, give him credit, he went out and made tough shots and made plays."
How bad was this setback for the Pokes?
It snapped a six-game winning streak.
Goodbye, Top-25 ranking. We hardly knew ya.
Most damning of all, Wyoming once again finds itself in a tie with Boise State atop the Mountain West standings with six regular-season games remaining.
It's not time to sound the alarm yet -- it's crazy to even write that when a team sits in a first-place tie and just lost its fourth game of the season in mid-February -- but there were some troubling aspects in this one.
First of all, the Cowboys allowed New Mexico (11-14, 3-8) to shoot 55% from the field. The home team also sank 8-of-17 from beyond the arc. Linder teams just don't let that happen. UW typically holds teams to 41%.
From three, they are even better, holding the opposition to just 28.5%.
You can't browse too far down the stat sheet without noticing Hunter Maldonado drained just 2-of-12 shots in this one. The redshirt junior averaged 19.6 points per night entering this one. He netted just nine against the Lobos, five of which came at the foul line.
So, what happened?
"Maldo is a guy that's been playing at an All-American level," Linder said. "There's going to be a night where he doesn't play at his best. He's played so well all year long and just for whatever reason tonight just wasn't his night. I know he takes full responsibility for it and he'll bounce back from it."
Statistically, New Mexico boasts one of the worst defenses in Division-I basketball, allowing the opposition to net 76.2 points per outing. That ranks the Lobos 321st out of 350 teams. Tonight, not only did they fluster Maldonado, led by a freshman center, Sebastian Forsling, they held Graham Ike to just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half.
"Sometimes the other team just plays really good," Linder said. "It's hard to win on the road if you're going to let teams shoot 55%."
Turning the ball over 15 times certainly didn't help the cause.
The Cowboys fall to 21-4 overall and 10-2 in Mountain West play. In 70 games inside the Lobos' famous home arena, Wyoming has won just 24 of those. UW will host Air Force Saturday afternoon at the Arena-Auditorium. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Here are some other takeaways and tidbits from a rough night in the Land of Enchantment:
* Senior Saquan Singleton didn't play against the Cowboys in the first meeting. Tonight, aside from House's monster outing, he might have been one of their best players. Yes, Maldonado had an off-night, but Singleton had plenty to do with that. There aren't many 6-foot-6 guards in the league. He is long and quick. Maldonado typically has that advantage. Singleton's stat line doesn't look all that impressive -- 5 points, 2 rebounds and 4 fouls -- but it was obvious early on his focus tonight wasn't on scoring. It was shutting down one of the top players in the conference. Mission accomplished.
* If the Cowboys would've escaped tonight with the win, we would've pointed to Brendan Wenzel's solid outside game, Jeremiah Oden's offensive burst, including a pair of two-handed dunks, and Ike's big second half, in which the freshman forward netted 24 of his team-high 26 points. Instead, it was the Lobos' role players like Forsling, the aforementioned Singleton and a few very timely rebounds and a clutch 3-pointer from the smallest guy on the court, KJ Jenkins, that ultimately killed the Cowboys with a thousand papercuts.
* Once again, UW got just three points from its bench. New Mexico only netted eight, but that's not the point. Aside from a Hunter Thompson triple, Xavier DuSell and Noah Reynolds were held scoreless in the desert. In just 13 minutes on the court tonight, DuSell missed his one shot attempt and was hit with four fouls. The freshman guard is still making his way back from a hamstring strain sustained in the dying seconds of a Jan. 15 win at Utah State. DuSell has finished with at least three personal fouls in six of his last eight outings. I asked Linder if that is coming from effort or something else. "There are some that he probably needs to eliminate," he said. "... I think he'd like to have a couple back but it's just one of those deals where you got to come in and play and we're a team that usually doesn't foul and is pretty elite in terms of not allowing teams to get to the free-throw line." New Mexico was 13-of-18 from the stripe tonight.
* Wyoming usually has you right where they want you late in tight games. Coming into Tuesday night, Linder's squad had won five league games that were decided by three points or less. The lone loss came at Boise State where the Pokes fell, 65-62. With just 1:11 left in this one, Ike laid it up and in to cut the Lobos lead to 68-65. The visitors would add just one more free throw as Jay Allen-Tovar sank a wide-open 3-pointer and House padded his stats with four more free throws. "You always have to adjust and I thought that we got to spots, got some looks, and for whatever reason, the ball didn't want to go in the basket," Linder said. New Mexico hit 7-of-8 shots from the field to put this one to bed.
* After losses this season, UW has responded by getting right back into the win column. With a pesky Air Force team coming to the high plains Saturday, Linder said he's not worried about his squad's confidence. "I know what I got in that locker room," he said. "I got a lot of disappointed guys and I know they'll bounce back and they'll respond the right way. That's why you recruit good character. They're disappointed and rightfully so."
* After the Cowboys escaped the first meeting against the Lobos with a 93-91 win, I wrote in this exact space that New Mexico is the team no one wants to face down the stretch, let alone in the conference tournament. That crown typically sits on top of the Falcons' head. They are a nightmare to play against, as you know. Nevada is another team that could sneak up and get you with the fire power it has in Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge. This Lobos team is downright terrifying. You know who they remind me of -- another team no one looked forward to facing -- the 2006 Wyoming Cowboys. Brad Jones and Brandon Ewing were getting to the hoop. It didn't matter how, it was happening. Sound familiar? Remember their miraculous run to the Mountain West title game in Denver that season? In that loss to San Diego State, Ewing scored 22 and Jones added 15. The Lobos could knock out a heavyweight early in Sin City and I don't think anyone would be surprised.
* The last three times the Cowboys have entered the Top 25, they have lost the following week. In 2013, it was a 63-61 home loss to Boise State that knocked UW down a peg. Two years later, Larry Shyatt's Pokes fell to SDSU 60-52 in Laramie.
* Just seven times this season Wyoming has failed to hit the 70-point mark. The Pokes are 3-4 in those contests. When that number is reached, the team is 18-0.
* No one is looking past Air Force, especially after this clunker, but you can't help but think about next Wednesday night when the Cowboys will play inside an already sold out Moby Arena in Fort Collins. Admit it, we've all had that one circled. You know David Roddy does. If Wyoming can take care of business at home against the Falcons -- and the Rams win road games in Albuquerque and Las Vegas -- this Border War meeting will be one of the biggest in the history of this rivalry.
* Wyoming scorers: Ike 26, Oden 14, Wenzel 9, Maldonado 9, Jeffries 5, Thompson 3
* Mountain West men's basketball standings:
* Wyoming: 21-4, 10-2
* Boise State: 19-6, 10-2
* Colorado State: 20-3, 10-3
* San Diego State: 16-6, 8-3
* Fresno State: 16-8, 6-5
* UNLV: 14-11, 6-6
* Utah State: 15-12, 6-8
* Nevada: 10-13, 4-8
* New Mexico: 11-14, 3-8
* Air Force: 10-13, 3-9
* San Jose State: 7-17, 0-12
PRESS PASS: Roaming The War
-PRESS PASS: Roaming The War