* University of Wyoming press release

LARAMIE -- The Wyoming Cowboys dropped a 69-59 battle against UNLV on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes held the Runnin’ Rebels to a season-low 33 percent, but UNLV recorded 10 threes on the night. Hunter Maldonado went over 2,000 career points in the contest becoming the fifth Cowboy in school history to reach the milestone.

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“When you see a team connected like we were tonight and play a game against a good team (UNLV), who had been playing really well other than a little blip against Fresno (State), we were right there in spite of the fact we didn’t shoot the ball well,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “When you guard and hold a team to 33 percent for the game, it’s going to give you a chance to win wherever you’re playing.”

Maldonado also hit the century mark in career games in double-figures with 17 points. He now has 2,004 career points. He also added seven rebounds and three assists. Brendan Wenzel added 11 points for his sixth game in double-figures this season. Xavier DuSell added 10 points in the contest for his seventh game in double-figures this season. Jeremiah Oden added 10 points for his 10th game in double-figures this season. Caden Powell tied a career-high with six points and Nate Barnhart added a career-high nine rebounds.

“He’s the epitome of what it is to be a Wyoming Cowboy, and he is a guy who does everything right,” Linder said. “He came back for a sixth year and you’re thinking it’s going to be a special season, but he’s never wavered and he just kept pushing through.  He had to go through some tough times before we got here but had the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament last year, and we still have some time with him left this season. He knows he’s leaving a bigger legacy than just scoring 2,000 points. It’s what he brings every day to the program.”

The Cowboys held the Runnin’ Rebels to 33 percent from the field for a season-low by a Cowboy opponent. UNLV was an impressive 25-31 from the free throw line. Wyoming shot 39 percent but hit only five threes on the night. Wyoming and UNLV each grabbed 36 rebounds. The Pokes dominated the paint in the contest holding a 30-8 advantage.

“Rebounding is a habit, and there is a reason we’re in the Top 25 in the country in defensive rebounding,” Linder said. “We’re a really good defensive rebounding team.  They (UNLV) have good athletes and you know you have to keep them off the glass. I can live with that effort and live with the fact that tonight was a step in the right direction and kudos to those guys in our locker room.”

Both teams were held in check in the opening three-plus minutes of the game with the Runnin’ Rebels earning an early 6-5 lead. Caden Powell would give the Pokes a 7-5 lead with 14:44 left in the first half and would take a charge that led to a Xavier DuSell three seconds later for a 10-6 lead.

UNLV answered the Cowboy run with a 7-0 run for a 13-10 lead with under 13 minutes left in the opening stanza. Maldonado tied the game ending the run with a triple but hit a three-pointer for a 16-13 lead nearly halfway through the half.

The Runnin’ Rebels would take a 20-17 lead until DuSell added an and-one play for a tie game with just over six minutes left in the half. Jeremiah Oden added a one-handed slam and a layup to give Wyoming a 24-21 lead with three-plus minutes left in the first half.

UNLV would battle back to take a 25-24 lead with under a minute left with a pair of buckets and that would be the game at the half. Wyoming held the Runnin’ Rebels to 25 percent from the field with Wyoming shooting 36 percent.

Maldonado gave the Pokes an early lead in the second half at 26-24 with a layup. Hunter Thompson would later hit a three-pointer in the corner and Maldonado hit a pair of free throws for a 33-29 game. But the Runnin’ Rebels hit a trio of threes for a 38-33 game with 15:52 left in the contest.

The Pokes would go without a field goal for over four minutes with the Runnin’ Rebels taking a 46-35 lead with 13 minutes left in the game. DuSell added a layup and Powell added a pair of free throws for a 46-39 game with 12 minutes left.

Powell added a slam and Maldonado added a basket for a 48-43 game nearly halfway through the half. Maldonado would make it a three-point contest and got to 2,000 points at the line. UNLV answered with a pair of baskets to push the lead back.

Wenzel added a corner three-pointer for a 52-49 game with 7:54 remaining. UNLV used the free throw line and built a 58-50 lead with five and a half minutes left in the contest. UNLV added another triple and took a 61-50 lead with 4:34 remaining. to seven points at 52-45 with 9:08 left.

Maldonado made it a nine-point game over three minutes left. UNLV would pushed the lead back to double-digits at the line for a 63-52 game with 1:58 left. Maldonado made it an eight points game with a minute left, but UNLV used the free throw line to take the contest 69-59

The Runnin’ Rebels were led by EJ Harkless with 33 points on the night. He was 8-of-12 from the field.

The Cowboys return to action on Saturday heading to Boise State to take on the Broncos at 6 p.m. in a contest on CBS Sports Network.

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