Tuck’s Takes: Pokes ‘Run Out of Juice’ in Border War Bout
FORT COLLINS, Colo., -- Remember when you were begging for basketball season?
Seems like so long ago, huh?
With this latest loss, Wyoming is now all but guaranteed the 11th and final seed in the upcoming Mountain West Tournament. Unless Jeff Linder's squad can muster up a pair of victories in the final two regular-season contests -- not likely against Nevada and San Diego State, which are a combined 43-12 overall -- the Cowboys will fail to win double-digit games.
Again, effort wasn't an issue Friday night in Fort Collins. Again, Wyoming couldn't find a way late, despite closing the score to within five three separate times in the second half of a 84-71 setback against Border War rival, Colorado State.
The broken record continues to spin.
Hunter Maldonado netted a team-high 23 points. The super senior dished out five assists and pulled down six rebounds. Hunter Thompson snapped out of his offensive funk, draining four triples and adding 12 points. Brendan Wenzel did his part, too, pitching in with 14.
Unlike in the first meeting, though, the Cowboys allowed Isaiah Stevens to look like, well, Isaiah Stevens. The senior guard from Dallas was up to his old tricks, dishing out 12 assists and finishing with 15 points. He was nothing short of a magician.
Just ask Xavier DuSell and Kenny Foster. They had a front-row seat.
John Tonje was a high-flyer, rocking the rim with two thunderous dunks over the final 20 minutes. He led the Rams with 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Big Man James Moors also chipped in with 16.
CSU always had an answer.
"I think, tonight, we didn't do a really good job of making them miss, obviously," Maldonado said postgame. "Any college program, if you give them open shots They are going to go and hit them."
The Rams did just that. To the tune of 59% from the field, to be exact. To add to the misery, the home team also sank 7-of-16 from deep and connected on 19-of-21 freebies from the stripe.
"It's hard to win when you allow the other team -- and, you know what, they're a good offensive team -- to shoot 60%, I mean, it makes it really hard to win," Linder said. "That's kind of been our MO all year is just finding a way where, you know, you have to sit down and you have to find a way to find a little bit more, especially when you're on the road in a tough environment."
"We didn't play the best defensive game," Thompson added. "I mean, give credit to Colorado State. They're a well-coached, tough team."
Wenzel simply shook his head when asked why this defense has had so many lapses over the last three games, allowing Air Force, Utah State and now CSU to shoot an average of nearly 52%.
"We can't afford to make mistakes like that, whether it's getting beat outside or (offensive) rebounds, things like that," the junior guard said. "So, we made too many of those mistakes and it cost us."
Let's face it, this undermanned Wyoming team is exhausted. Six players were on the floor for more than 20 minutes in this one, including 38 for Maldonado and 37 on Wenzel's ailing right knee. Foster, just a few weeks post back surgery, even played 27.
"We kind of got tired and ran out of juice," Maldonado said.
That's an understatement.
The gas light has been on for two weeks.
* Wyoming scorers: Maldonado 23, Wenzel 17, Thompson 12, Oden 7, Foster 6, DuSell 4, Powell 2, Barnhart 0
* 8,083 was the announced attendance Friday night inside Moby Arena. The Rams sported orange uniforms, an homage to their Colorado A&M roots.
* Wondering why Graham Ike and Noah Reynolds aren't on the Wyoming bench? The Cowboys' big man is in Denver undergoing treatment on the right foot injury that has sidelined him throughout the 2022-23 season, according to UW. Reynolds is not traveling with the team as he remains in concussion protocol. Make sure to tell your friend, the conspiracy theorist.
* Linder was visibly emotional after this one, talking about Maldonado and Thompson, who will play their final home game in a UW uniform Monday night in Laramie. The third-year head coach called the duo "dinosaurs," referring to them exhausting their eligibility at one school in the day in age of the transfer portal. No, Linder is not calling you out, he just hopes to see the two super seniors get a special sendoff inside the Arena-Auditorium. Stay tuned for a full story this week.
* Linder was coaching tonight with a very heavy heart. His father, Bruce, is in the hospital in the Denver area, dealing with an undisclosed illness. Tears fell from Linder's eyes as he talked about the impact his parents have had on him. "I was blessed with two unbelievable parents that, you know, supported me with everything that I did and my dreams," Linder said, stopping to compose his thoughts. "It's only fitting that I be there for them when they need me the most. They have been there for me through everything." Linder missed last Tuesday's game against Utah State in Laramie to be with his father.
* This was the 240th meeting between these two rivals. The Cowboys hold a 138-102 advantage in the series. CSU has won seven of the last 11 meetings.
* Wyoming (8-20, 3-13) will host Nevada (21-7, 11-4) Monday night at the A-A. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.