LARAMIE, Wyo. (Feb. 17, 2023) – The Wyoming Cowboys struggled from behind the arc in a 75-69 loss to Air Force on Friday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. Wyoming shot 23 percent from behind the arc in the game and the Flacons were 47 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming averaged nearly nine makes per game heading into the contest.
“On the defensive end, as good as we were from an effort standpoint and being one step ahead in our win at New Mexico the other night we looked about a half step behind tonight,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “Our guys, for whatever reason, knew they needed to be a step back to guard the back cuts by Air Force but instead we were a step high. It’s one thing if they have to finish through a defender but we gave them too many open laups tonight. You can’t let a team come in and shoot 54 percent on your home floor and expect to win. Offensively, it’s a make or miss game and we had a lot of open looks but they didn’t go in tonight. I thought we got some good shots but you’ve got to knock them down. We missed some free throws too at a critical juncture.“
The Cowboys were led by Hunter Maldonado with 22 points for his 103rd game in double-figures in his career. He moved to fourth in Wyoming history in scoring passing Flynn Robinson, as he now has 2,060 points and is two points away from passing former teammate Justin James for third place. He also surpassed 600 career assists with 604 in his career. Jeremiah Oden added a career-high 19 points for his ninth game in conference play in double-figures. He was 5-of-7 from inside the three-point line in the game. Xavier DuSell added 10 points in the game and is now one three-pointer away from moving into the top-10 in career threes at Wyoming.
Air Force shot 55 percent from the field in the contest and held the Pokes to 42 percent. The Falcons and Cowboys each grabbed 28 rebounds with Air Force grabbing eight offensive rebounds to Wyoming’s five.
The Pokes got out to a 9-2 lead in the opening three minutes of play thanks to a pair of threes from DuSell and three points from Maldonado. Oden would give the Pokes a 12-4 lead with an and-one play at the 15:35 mark of the opening frame.
Air Force would hold the poke scoreless for three minutes and the Falcons used the backdoor cuts and an 8-0 run to tie the contest at 12-12 with 12:23 remaining in the opening stanza. Oden ended the run with a tomahawk slam. Wyoming would struggle from the field going 1-of-7 for a stretch until a slam from Nate Barnhart.
The Falcons took a lead with under eight minutes left in the first half, but Wyoming tied it with a basket from Nate Barnhart seconds later. The Falcons took a three-point lead, but Maldonado helped the Pokes battle back and take a 31-30 lead with under three minutes left in the half.
Maldonado would get to double-figures and give Wyoming a 34-32 lead, but the Falcons added a three-pointer to take the lead with under two minutes left in the stanza. Maldonado tied the contest at the line, but AFA added a bucket to close the half and take a 37-35 lead into the break.
The Falcons opened the second half with a pair of baskets and a free throw to build a 42-35 lead in the opening 98 seconds of the frame. Air Force opened the lead up to eight points at 47-39 in the opening three minute of the half. The Pokes wouldn’t hit a field goal for over three minutes but used the free throw line and a Brendan Wenzel layup to make it a 49-46 game with 13:56 to play.
DuSell made it a one-point game at 52-51 with 12:43 left. After Air Force would push the lead to three points both teams would go scoreless for a lengthy amount of time with the Falcons for three minutes and the Pokes over four. Air Force pushed the lead to six points with a three for a 57-51 game with 8:33 remaining.
The Pokes hit their first basket in over five minutes when Maldonado added a layup and made it a 57-55 game for Air force with just over seven minutes left in the contest. Air Force hit back-to-back buckets and took a six-point lead with 5:40 left.
The Cowboys would go down five-points at 62-57, but Oden added a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game with 3:42 left on the clock. But Air Force hit a three the following trip down the floor for a 65-59 lead. Oden made it a four-point game with a slam, but the Falcons used the free throw line to build a 69-61 lead with under two minutes left.
Maldonado hit a three-pointer and made it a 72-66 game with under 30 seconds left and Oden made it a four-point game at 73-69 with six seconds left, but the Falcons ended the game at the line and took the contest 75-69.
Air Force was led by Jake Heidbreder with 22 points on the night. He went 8-of-10 from the field in the contest. Carter Murphy added 16 points and Ryan Petraitis had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cowboys remain at home Tuesday. They play host to Utah State at 7 p.m. inside the Arena-Auditorium. The Aggies took the first matchup, 83-63, in Logan last month.