• Pokes hold nation’s top three-point shooting team to 26 percent
The Wyoming Cowboys dropped a defensive showdown to Utah State by a score of 65-55 on Tuesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes held the Aggies to 13 points below their season scoring average and held the nation’s top three-point field goal percentage team to 14 points below its average on the night, but Wyoming did not record a field goal in the final nine minutes of the contest.
Wyoming was playing without head coach Jeff Linder, who was not with the team as he tends to his ill father in Colorado.
“From a defensive standpoint, from a game-plan standpoint, we gave ourselves a chance to win,” assistant coach Ken DeWeese said. “That is one of the best offensive efficiency teams in the country in Utah State. We held them to 41 percent for the game and 37.5 percent for the second half. The guys executed the scout almost flawlessly, defensively. The two things we were concerned about were offensive rebounds — and we had one more offense rebound than they did — and transition defense, which we were able to slow them down and play at our pace. Our guys battled again. It would be real easy for the guys to roll over the way the season has gone and now tonight without Coach (Jeff) Linder (due to his father’s illness). I have so much gratitude for how our players continue to battle.”
The Pokes were led by Xaiver DuSell, as e tied a season-high with 21 points. He hit five threes with four coming in the first half. Hunter Maldonado added 11 points and nine rebounds along with five assists. He has 609 helpers in his career and is nine away from the MW record. Jeremiah Oden added seven points and seven rebounds. Caden Powell added seven points off the bench one point shy of career best.
Wyoming shot 31 percent on the night and were held to 21 percent in the second half. Wyoming held Utah State to 41 percent, which was seven points below their season average. USU was held to 26 percent from behind the arc. The Aggies held a slight 37-36 advantage on the glass in the contest.
The Aggies raced out to an 11-5 lead using a trio of three-pointers in the opening two minutes. DuSell scored the first five points of the game for the Pokes with a layup and a three-pointer. Utah State made it a 15-5 game on a 7-0 run at the 15:58 mark, but DuSell added a triple seconds later.
Hunter Thompson added a pair of free throws and Maldonado added a jumper for a 17-12 Aggie lead with 13:50 left in the first half. Taylor Funk and Steven Ashworth made it a 24-12 game holding the Pokes scoreless for three minutes. Maldonado ended the slide with a layup with 10:42 left in the opening frame.
The Pokes went scoreless for three minutes, but Kenny Foster added a bucket followed by a dunk from Oden for a 29-21 game with 5:36 left on the first half clock. The Aggie would push the lead to 11 points, but Powell made it a 32-23 game at the free throw line at the 3:31 mark. Seconds Later DuSell made it a 32-26 game with a three-pointer.
DuSell hit his fourth of the half to make it a 32-29 game and an 8-0 run for the Pokes. He added a pair of freebies to cap the 10-0 run and make it a 32-31 game with 94 seconds left in the half. Wyoming held the Aggies scoreless for nearly four minutes.
Oden tied the game at 33-33 with a minute left on a gliding jumper. The Pokes and Aggies would be tied at the break with the Cowboys holding Utah State without a basket in the final five minutes of the half.
The Aggies would take a 37-36 lead in the second half, but DuSell would give Wyoming a 38-37 lead for the Pokes’ first of the game at the 16:40 mark of the second frame. Powell would give the Pokes a three-point lead with a layup off a dish from Maldonado.
Utah State would take a 43-40 lead with 12:49 to play with a three-pointer and trio of free throws from Ashworth. He would cap an 8-0 himself with a pair of free throws for a 45-40. Brendan Wenzel would halt the run with a three-pointer the following trip down the floor.
The two teams would battle defensively halfway through the half, but the Aggies would build a 49-45 advantage with under eight minutes left and make it a 53-45game with under five minutes left. Wyoming went scoreless for over four and a half minutes until Powell added a pair of free throws for a 53-47 game with 4:17 left.
Utah State lifted the lead to nine points and would make it a nine-point game at 59-49 with 2:07 left in the game. Powell made it an eight-point game with 1:54 left with a free throw, but the lead was pushed to 10-points with 1:48 left.
Wyoming made it an eight-point contest, but once again the Aggies pushed the lead to double-digits at the free throw line. DuSell hit the Pokes first basket in over eight minutes, but the Aggies would take the contest by a score of 65-55.
The Aggies were led by Ashworth with 19 points going 10-od-12 from the free throw line. Max Shulga and Dan Akin added 11 points apiece.
The Cowboys return to action on Friday heading to Colorado State for the Boarder War. The contest is set for a 7 p.m. start on FS1.