Freshman Marcus Williams tied a career-high with 20 points in the first half and finished the night with 30 points to lead Wyoming past Denver 83-61 win on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. Williams scored the most points in a game by a Wyoming freshman since Desmar Jackson scored 31 points at Utah in 2010. Wyoming tied a season-low allowing 61 points to improve to 4-1 on the season.
“Sometimes when you win a game like we did at Oregon State on Sunday, you worry about coming out the next game and you kind of fall flat — particularly with a young team like we have,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “But we challenged the guys this week and they responded and came out in the first half and did a tremendous job of executing the game plan. We wanted to force Denver out of their actions, and we turned them over 16 times in the first half and turned them over 27 times for the game.”
“It is a matter of having the discipline to play like we want to play every possession. In the second half, when you get a lead like that it is hard to maintain your discipline. But we told the guys in the locker room that we are going to coach them every single possession whether that’s in practice or a game. Guys who can handle it are going to end up winning a lot of games and being good players. It’s not about the score. It’s about each possession and whether we executed on the defensive end and on the offensive end at a level that is going to allow us to win games in the Mountain West and ultimately to allow us to win championships.”
Williams 20 points in the first half was the most in an opening frame since Justin James had 20 points against New Mexico on March 9, 2019. He finished the game with a career-high three threes and career-best 13 field goals. Junior Hunter Maldonado added 14 points for his 44th career game in double figures. He also led the Pokes with nine rebounds and added six assists. Reining MW Player of the Week Kenny Foster added 15 points for his fourth-straight game dating back to last season in double figures.
“That is just Marcus (Williams) being a really good player,” Linder said. “He sees the game exceptionally well, and as he gets more games under his belt he’s only going to get better and better. He has a tremendous feel and instincts for the game. He did a good job tonight on making DU pay from three when they started the game going underneath the screens, and then as soon as you try and push up on him good luck trying to guard him in one-on-one in space.”
The Pokes forced a season-high 27 turnovers and scored 33 points off the miscues. The last time an opponent committed at least 20 turnovers was East Tennessee State recording 20 on Dec. 21, 2018. Wyoming shot 49 from the field for the night and held Denver to 40 percent from the field. The Pioneers did finish the night with a 39-30 rebound advantage.
The Pokes added a pair of threes from Williams and Foster in the opening two minutes of the contest to take a 6-2 advantage. After the Pioneers knocked down a three, Thompson added an and-one play to make it an 11-5 game with 16:27 left in the first frame.
Wyoming would build the lead to 20-9 with 12 and half minutes left in the half with a 6-0 run lead by Marble II, Williams and Foster. Wyoming forced six turnovers for the Pioneers building the lead to double digits.
The Pokes would maintain the double-digit lead halfway through the half with freshman Xavier DuSell scoring five-straight points and Williams going to the basket to get to double-figures for a 27-14 lead. But the Pioneers went on a 4-0 run to make it a nine point contest at 27-18 with under nine minutes left in the half.
Wyoming held the Pioneers without a field goal for over four minutes and built the lead to 39-20 using an 11-0 run and hitting 7-of-9 field goal attempts at one point. The run was highlighted by a triple from Williams, Maldonado and Foster.
The Cowboy offense would slow down, but took a 45-25 lead into halftime. Wyoming shot 53 percent from the field and forced the Pioneers into 17 turnovers.
The Pokes got off to a 7-2 run to open the second frame to build a 52-27 advantage. Williams scored a bucket and added assists to buckets from Maldonado and Foster. But the Pioneers countered with a 8-2 run led by Frank Ryder for 54-35 contest with 14:34 left in the game.
Freshman Jeremiah Oden recorded an alley-oop slam and junior Drake Jeffries added a triple followed by layup from Foster, as the Pokes built a 63-37 with 12 minutes left in the game. Ryder continued to cause problems in the paint for the Pokes cutting the Pokes advantage to 63-42 halfway through the second frame, as he got into double-figures.
The Pokes would maintain their 20-point advantage until a pair three pointer by the Pioneers’ Kobey Lam for a 73-57 contest with under five minutes to play. Wyoming answered with an 8-0 run and took the contest 83-61.
The Pioneers were led Ryder with 12 points. Tristan Green led the team with seven rebounds. DU leading scorer Jase Townsend, who averages 20 points a game was held to 10 on the night.
Wyoming hits the road once again this time heading to Utah Valley on Saturday for a 2 p.m. MT start.