The Cowboys’ magical season came to an end on Tuesday night following their First Four loss to the Indiana Hoosiers.
Mike Woodson’s Indiana Hoosiers came into Dayton, Ohio following two wins in the Big Ten Conference Tournament against Michigan and Illinois, who are two NCAA tournament teams in their own right, and a loss in their conference championship, to the Iowa Hawkeyes. With a near-packed house full of Hoosier fans providing a home-court advantage type of feel, Indiana’s defense proved themselves to be too much for the Pokes, stifling the Cowboys to just 58 points in the 66-58 scored 12th seed matchup.
Scoring was hard to come by for both teams on Tuesday, but especially within the first several minutes of the game. The Hoosiers opened up the contest with a quick Trayce Jackson-Davis bucket and the Pokes returned fire with a Hunter Thompson three in the early goings. But, neither team would reach double-digits until about 10 minutes were remaining in the first half. Turnovers were prevalent on both sides as well, especially for Wyoming and Hunter Maldonado, who had 6 of the 12 first-half Cowboy turnovers. Thanks to timely three-point shots from Jeremiah Oden and Hunter Thompson, the Pokes found their first lead since the start with just about 7 minutes left in the first half, but Graham Ike’s foul troubles and costly late turnovers provided the Hoosiers with opportunity as they ended the first half with a five-point advantage, 30-25.
It was hardly what either coach would describe as a well-played first half, but there were still 20 minutes left for both teams to figure some things out. The second half started with both teams trading buckets, but the Pokes found themselves down seven after more mistakes and scoring droughts, turning the ball over and allowing too many second-chance points off of offensive rebounds. The Hoosiers never really looked back as they held their own on defense all night despite some scoring troubles of their own, making it a 10 point game with just under two minutes left. Maldonado added a four-point play toward the end to make it a 60-54 game with ninety seconds remaining, but Indiana added a bucket and hit a pair of free throws to essentially claim the victory and book a date with the St. Mary’s Gaels in the Round of 64.
Indiana was led by Trayce Jackson-Davis’s efficient 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while Hunter Maldonado led the scoring for the Cowboys with 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting. It seemed like there were a lot of missed opportunities for Wyoming in this one. They were never really able to gain control of the tempo or find any offensive rhythm with the overabundance of turnovers and missed shots. The team collectively shot 43.5% from the field including 31.9% (6-19) from three-point range and turned the ball over a whopping 19 times altogether. They also found themselves outrebounded by 9. Despite the disappointing finish, in Jeff Linder’s second full season leading the Cowboys he was able to bring the team to its 16th ever NCAA tournament appearance and a 25-9 overall record - an impressive feat for a team that was projected to finish towards the bottom of the conference in October’s preseason rankings.
The 25 Cowboy wins were the most in a season since they reached that very mark during the 2014-15 season in which the Pokes made the NCAA Tournament.