The Pokes ended up splitting their games last week with a loss to New Mexico and a win against Air Force. First, they saw their six-game win streak come to a close last Tuesday night in Albuquerque, losing to the Lobos 75-66 in regulation. It was their first loss since January 25th and only their second conference loss of the season. They did, however, finish the week strong in defeating the Air Force Falcons 75-67 in their return to Laramie. The Pokes will now look ahead to Fort Collins on Wednesday night.
The Cowboys’ first loss of the week came in the Pit in Albuquerque at the hands of the now 11-16 Lobos. It was a second half implosion that led to the Cowboys’ demise. The Pokes were outscored 45-33 in the second half alone in large part due to the monster game from Lobo Guard Jaelen House. House finished the game with 34 points on 12-22 shooting, including 6 assists and 4 rebounds. The Pokes were unable to slow down the Junior Guard on his home floor and they didn’t help themselves out much as a team either. Despite the stellar play from Graham Ike, who had 26 points and 7 rebounds on 50% shooting, and Jeremiah Oden, who dropped in 14 of his own on a perfect 5/5 from the floor, the rest of the Cowboys were unable to establish any type of consistency on offense. Hunter Maldonado had easily one of his worst games of the season, scoring only 9 points on 2-12 from the floor, and Drake Jefferies was only able to shoot 1-8 from beyond the arc, contributing to the Cowboys’ porous 41% shooting percentage on the night. The Cowboys also turned the ball over 15 times in the loss. They were lucky to only lose by as many as they did against a sneaky Lobo squad that outperformed them in almost every facet.
It was a tough loss for the Cowboys, who may have been looking ahead to the Colorado State game on Wednesday, but Coach Jeff Linder gave plenty of credit to the Lobos after the game.
“Give New Mexico credit,” Coach Linder said. “They made some tough shots. It was a make or miss game (for us) and we had a lot of looks and it didn’t go in. We have been making those winning plays late, but tonight we didn’t. It is disappointing and we can’t let this affect us.”
And the Pokes didn’t.
Putting the disappointing loss in the rearview mirror, Jeff Linder’s Cowboys came back to Laramie with some added fuel to their fire. The Pokes beat the Air Force Falcons last Saturday in a huge bounce-back game for Hunter Maldonado. Maldonado was a completely different player, scoring 29 points in the contest while adding 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Ike was the second leading scorer for the Pokes, notching a double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds (on a perfect 11-11 from the floor.) and though the Cowboys still couldn’t find a way to get hot from beyond the arc, it didn’t matter as they were still able to shoot above 50% and get to the line consistently in the contest. The Cowboy defense also held the Falcons in check, limiting them to 44% from the field with no player recording beyond 15 points. It was a motivating victory for the Cowboys who are heading toward the finish-line of a tight Mountain West race with the Boise State Broncos.
The Wyoming Cowboys are now 22-4 on the season and 11-2 in conference play, with big games coming up against Colorado State and Nevada next week. With the disappointing loss to New Mexico, the #22 Cowboys are likely to fall out of the AP Top 25 later this week, but with a couple of wins next week, they could find themselves right back in the mix of nationally ranked teams and a few spots up on KenPom and NET rankings.
Here are the upcoming dates and times of next week’s games:
@ Colorado State Rams - Wednesday, February 23rd, 7:00 p.m. MT (CBSSN)
vs. Nevada Wolf Pack - Saturday, February 26th, 6:00 p.m. MT (CBSSN)