Despite missing one of the leading scorers in the Mountain West in Graham Ike, the shorthanded Wyoming Cowboys roared past the San Jose State Spartans in the final 11 minutes picking up the 84-69 victory to pick up their fifth-straight win. The Pokes improve to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in MW play.
“That was a gutsy effort,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “We knew we were coming off the same situation that San Jose State was. We were playing our third game in six days where we didn’t have time to practice much in between games. This was a hard game, and then with Graham (Ike) not playing guys had to adjust. We said no excuses.”
Wyoming outscored the Spartans 28-14 in the final 11:40 of the contest and shot 58 percent from the field in the second frame on their way to the win. Wyoming is 13-0 when scoring 70 or more points this season.
“We felt like especially in the second half and playing at 7,220 that hopefully that would take effect, and I think that did,” Linder said. “Our defensive effort was strong, and we made some good adjustments. Coach (Ken) DeWeese came up with playing Maldo (Hunter Maldonado) at the five spot and playing smaller there. They (San Jose State) were playing really small and that was causing us some problems. We made some good adjustments and our guys implemented those adjustments and finished the game like we have all year — we found ways to get stops.”
The Pokes were led by Hunter Maldonado with 20 points and a career-high 12 assists. He had 10 helpers in the first half, which was the most in a half in school history. Drake Jeffries and Brendan Wenzel each added 15 points. Jeffries had 15 points in the first half all from beyond the arc. Wenzel’s 15 points was a career best. Jeremiah Oden added 14 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Noah Reynolds added 14 points off the bench for a career high. He was 3-of-3 from behind the arc.
“It was good for guys to have to step up and make plays,” Linder said. “I think that is going to be good for us moving forward — for a guy like Noah (Reynolds) to have to step up and make a big play, for a guy like Brendan Wenzel to step up and make a big play — and I thought J.O. (Jeremiah Oden) the last six or seven minutes played really well.”
The Spartans opened with an early 6-2 lead after Hunter Maldonado opened the contest with a basket on the opening trip down the floor. Wyoming responded with a 7-0 run with a bucket from Maldonado, a triple from Thompson and layup from Oden and three ball from Jeffries to take a 12-6 lead at the 14:45 mark of the opening frame.
Jeffries would later push the lead to nine points at 17-8 with his second three-pointer with 12:45 left in the half. He added his third of the game at the 10:33 mark to give Wyoming a 42-11 advantage. His fifth three-pointer of the game made it a 29-15 game with 8:31 left in the opening stanza.
Reynolds added a pair of triples in the corner off a dishes from Maldonado, as Wyoming took a 37-21 lead with five minutes left in the half. Hunter Thompson added his second triple of the game for a 40-23 lead a minute later.
The Spartans would cut into the lead with three-straight baskets and a pair of free throws for a 42-32 contest with 1:46 left in the frame. The Spartans would make it an eight-point game at the break 45-37
The Pokes pushed the lead 12-points to open the second half, but the Spartans went on a 9-0 run to make it a 49-46 game with 16:38 left in the game. The Spartans would hit a trio of free throws to tie the contest at 52-52 with just over 15 minutes remaining.
The Spartans would tie the contest at 55-55 at the 12:33 mark of the second half on a free throw from Omari Moore. Wenzel and Reynolds would spark the Cowboys to a 7-0 run with a triple from Wenzel and slam from Reynolds for a 62-55 lead halfway through the second frame.
The Pokes would push the lead to 10-points twice once again off a Wenzel three pointer and a drive by Reynolds. Oden added a baseline slam to make it a 13-point game at 73-60 with just under seven minutes left.
Back-to-back threes from Reynolds and Maldonado made it an 81-64 game with 2:50 left. Oden would close the scoring with a dunk, as Wyoming took the contest 84-69.
The Spartans were led by Omari Moore with 15 points. Shon Robinson added 14 points.
Wyoming will host New Mexico on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network