Clutch Plays Late by Reynolds and Maldonado Lift Power Past Colorado State, 58-57
• Reynolds hit free throw with 2.6 seconds
The Wyoming Cowboys used a free throw by Noah Reynolds with 2.6 seconds left and an inbound pass breakup from Hunter Maldonado to earn a 58-57 win over Colorado State on Saturday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium. It was the largest crowd of the season with nearly 7,000 fans in attendance.
“In the Border War even though we were up 14, that is what this game is about, UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “Every one that I’ve been a part of seems like it comes down to the last possession of the game. “For our guys to stick together was great. It’s a game of runs. We really controlled the game offensively and defensively in the first half and then they (Colorado State) flipped the script in the second half. But our guys stuck together and found a way to win the game. That is what this team needed was to find a way to win a game. That spark will hopefully allow us to push forward.”
Wyoming was led in scoring by Noah Reynolds with 17 points including the game winning free throw. Ethan Anderson added 13 points and five rebounds. He was 6-of-9 from the free throw line. Hunter Thompson returned for the first time in five games and added a team-high eight rebounds. Maldonado added seven points in his return and led the team with five assists. Xavier DuSell added nine points and a season-high five rebounds.
“It was nice to have a few more bodies back today to allow guys to not play as tired,” Linder said. “Maldo (Hunter Maldonado) and some of our other guys have been playing a lot of minutes. (Hunter) Thompson and Nate Barnhart gave us great minutes today. I thought X (Xavier DuSell) — even though Stevens made some plays — I thought X made it really, really hard for him. It was a collective team effort. It is good to see those guys feel success in the locker room again and hopefully that will help catapult us forward a little bit. “Thankfully we can enjoy one night with a win. Noah (Reynolds) made a couple big plays down the stretch and EA (Ethan Anderson) did, as well. I thought both those guys found ways to get to the rim knowing that CSU was really loading up on Maldo. We knew we had to go to one of those other guys. It was good to see them deliver down the stretch.”
The Pokes shot 40 percent from the field but held the Rams to four percent below their season average for 45 percent on the night. In what was a battle of a contest each team scored 10 points on turnovers, 34 points in the paint and six points on second chances.
Neither team could find a bucket in the opening three minutes with the only point coming via the free throw line for a 1-0 Ram lead. Anderson got the Pokes on the board at the 16:30 mark with a layup and a 2-1 lead. The Pokes would take a 6-3 lead on a Nate Barnhart bucket, but John Tonje tied the contest with a triple at the 15:05 mark of the opening stanza.
Reynolds and DuSell added three-pointers to build a 14-10 lead with under 13 minutes left in the half. Hunter Thompson added a three-pointer for a 17-12 lead nearly halfway through the half. Reynolds and Maldonado helped the Pokes build a seven-point lead with under eight minutes left and the lead was built to nine on an Oden bucket with 7:18 left in the half.
The Pokes would build the lead to 12-points and a 7-0 run over 1:26 thanks to a layup from Anderson and a flop warning free throw following that. Thompson pushed the lead to 15 points at 31-15 with a triple as the run moved to 10-0 over three and a half minutes.
Wyoming would hold the Rams scoreless for around three minutes and would still enjoy a lead this time at 14 with a tally at 33-19 with 1:20 left, but the Pokes went scoreless for nearly three minutes until Maldonado hit a bucket at the buzzer for a 35-21 lead at the break.
Turnovers by the Cowboys would help the Rams make it an eight-point contest at 37-29 four minutes into the half. DuSell halted the run with a triple. Maldonado added a layup for a 45-32 game with 13 minutes left in the game.
Wyoming went scoreless for over seven minutes and the Rams went on a 15-0 run to take a 47-45 lead. Barnhart halted the run with a jumper with 5:41 left in the game. Tonje would give the Rams the lead back at 48-47, but Reynolds add free throws for a 49-48 Wyoming lead with 5:16 left.
Anderson added an and-one play for a 52-48 lead with 4:32 left in the game. Isaiah Stevens added a triple for a 54-53 game for UW with 3:31 left on the clock. Tonje added four points for a 57-54 lead for the Rams with 2:33 left in the contest.
Maldonado made it a 57-55 game at the free throw line and Reynolds tied the game 96 seconds left. Neither team could break the stalemate until Noah Reynolds added a free throw for a 58-57 game with 2.6 seconds remaining. Maldonado broke up the inbounds pass and the Pokes took the win 58-57.
The Rams were led by Stevens with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the double double. Tonje added 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Cowboys hit the road Tuesday. Wyoming travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a 9 p.m. contest against UNLV inside the Thomas & Mack Center.