Pokes off to best start since 2014-15-
The Wyoming Cowboys downed the New Mexico Lobos in a wild shootout inside the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday evening by a score of 93-91. The Pokes shot 58 percent from the field with the Lobos shooting 54 percent, as the Pokes move to 15-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference for the best start since the 2014-15 season.
“That was our fourth game in eight days, and I want to thank the students and the fans for turning the Double A into the Dome of Doom there for a little while tonight,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “Our guys keep finding ways to win. They stuck together. There are some things we’re going to have to take from tonight and learn from them. You’re not going to win a lot of games if you allow teams to shoot 66 percent in the second half like we did tonight. Luckily, we shot 72 percent in the second half and did a good job of following the game plan of getting the ball inside to Maldo (Hunter Maldonado) and Graham (Ike). They both started out a little slow, but did a really good job to close.
Both team’s shot lights out in the second frame. Wyoming shot 73 percent in the stanza going 16-of-22 and went 15-of-17 inside the arc. The Lobos stayed in the game shooting 64 percent from the arc in the second half. The Lobos hit 10 threes in the contest, as Wyoming had held opponents to under 10 threes in 28-straight games.
“That is a team (New Mexico) if you look at their record you might not think the game should be as close as it was, but if you watch New Mexico in the other conference games they’ve played this year they’ve played everybody tough in this league,” Linder said. That game tonight was the same game Colorado State had to play the other night to get their win over New Mexico.”
The Pokes were led by Graham Ike with 29 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. He has scored 20 or more points in nine games. Hunter Maldonado added 25 points with seven assists and six rebounds. It marked the first time since Jan. 31, 2018 that two players scored 25 or more points in a game. Hayden Dalton had 26 points with Justin James adding 25 in a win at Colorado State.
Brendan Wenzel added 13 points on 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Wenzel has scored in double figures in back-to-back games. Drake Jeffries added 14 points with eight points in the second half.
The Pokes recorded a season-high 35 free throws shooting 77 percent. The Pokes recorded 34 rebounds and held the Lobos to only 23. The Pokes also added 11 second chance points with New Mexico adding only two. The Lobos did damage in transition off turnovers with 19 points off Cowboy miscues.
“In close games, when you have the ability to play inside out, like we can, even if you don’t get a basket inside you can kick it out for some easy threes,” Linder said. “We created a lot of good threes off moving the ball — not as many in the second half as in the first. We also did a good job of getting to the foul line. We just found a way to win the game, and I’m proud of the guys effort.”
The Lobos opened the game hitting their first four shots of the game to take an early 9-8 lead. The Pokes opened 3-of-3 with a pair of triples and a layup. Wenzel would add back-to-back threes to give Wyoming a 14-11 lead at the 15:15 mark of the opening frame.
The Pokes went scoreless for nearly three minutes, as the Lobos took a 17-15 lead, but Wenzel cut the streak, but New Mexico’s Jay Allen-Tovar added an and-one play for a 20-18 lead at the 11:36 mark. Jeffries would add a paint-touch three ball to give Wyoming a 25-22 lead at the 9:33 mark of the stanza.
Neither team could find a bucket for over three minutes until Wenzel added his fourth three-pointer of the half followed by a trip of free throws from Noah Reynolds for a 34-27 lead with under five minutes left in the half.
After the Pokes took an eight-point lead, the Lobos went on a 5-0 run to make it a 37-34 game with just over two minutes left in the half. The Pokes closed the frame on a 4-0 run holding the Lobos to 0-4 from the field to take a 41-34 lead into the break.
The Pokes pushed the lead to 10 points at 47-47 early in the first half with a pair of buckets from Ike and layup from Maldonado. The Lobos cut it back to six with a pair of quick buckets. But Ike would push it back to 10 points at the line for a 51-41 game with under 17 minutes left.
The Lobos would hit a pair of three-pointers to make it a four-point game at 51-47 with 14:58 left in the game. The Pokes would head to the paint to push the lead back to eight points at 57-49 thanks to a bucket from Jeremiah Oden.
But the shooting of the Lobos would make it a four-point game at 59-54 at the 11:36 mark. The Pokes would push the lead to nine points with under nine minutes left. But back-to-back dunks from Jamal Mashburn Jr. and a layup from Javontae Johnson it made it a 69-66 game in favor of the Pokes with 7:24 left in the game.
The Lobos would make it a one-point game on a Mashburn three-pointer, but Jeffries answered back for a 76-72 game with 4:55 left. Allen-Tovar made it a two-point game with four minutes left and the teams would go back and forth between a two- and four-point contest over the next three minutes.
The Pokes would take the ball back with 44 seconds left after a Lobo turnover. The Pokes missed three-straight free throws until Reynolds made it a five-point game at 87-82 with 42 seconds remaining. KJ Jenkins hit three-straight free throws to make it a two-point contest at 87-85 with 32 seconds remaining.
Jeffries added a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game at 89-85 with 29 seconds remaining. House would make it a two-point game and things would get interesting from there. The Pokes would turn the ball over, but Mashburn would be called with a charge followed by a bench technical, as the Pokes would seal the game late at the line. Wenzel made it a four-point game and House hit a shot late for a 93-91 win for the Pokes.
The Lobos were led by Allen-Tovar with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Mashburn added 22 points going 10-of-17 from the field in the contest.
Wyoming heads to Boise State on Tuesday evening for a 7 p.m. start in a contest on the MW Network and Stadium.