UW tops century mark, routs SJSU in opening round of MW Tourney
LAS VEGAS -- The Wyoming Cowboys recorded a tournament record for points in a half with 59 in the first half on their way to a 111- 80 win over San Jose State in the first round of the Mountain West Championship on Wednesday afternoon inside the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The 111 points was the third most in a game in tournament history and the most in a tournament game since 2002.
“Leading up to this game, we had a great approach and they didn’t feel like freshmen anymore,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “It felt like a team of upperclassmen. They were talking in practice, brought the right energy and I think you saw that today with the way we played. We knew we had to make it difficult for San Jose today, especially from the 3-point line and as the game went on, I thought our depth and having multiple guys coming off the bench, allowed us to not have to make multiple guys play tired.”
The 59 points in the first half was the most for the Pokes in a first frame since scoring 59 against UCCS on Dec. 5, 2005.
Wyoming shot 64.7 percent from the field in the first half, as it was the highest in opening frame since shooting 65.2 percent against Akron in 2007.
“Over the course of the season, especially when you have a young team, it’s hard to see the very slow growth that it requires to come into a situation like this and to be able to win games at the tournament, you need to be able bring your defensive mentality,” Linder said. “It’s been a process, and I thought our approach, especially the last month or so, since we went down to San Diego State, our guys really got see what a championship team looks like and what it feels like. I think from that point on our guys had a little bit more of a sense of urgency and understanding.”
Freshman Graham Ike finished the night with a career-high 32 points including 21 in the first half.
It tied for the most in an opening half in the MW era of Cowboy basketball with Hayden Dalton, as he scored 21 points against Cornell in the first half on Dec. 17, 2016. His 32 points were also the most by a freshman in a MW Tournament game.
Fellow freshman Xavier DuSell added 19 points including five three-pointers. Junior Hunter Maldonado added 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds and six assists. Freshman Marcus Williams added 15 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double. He also added a career-high seven steals.
Wyoming finished the afternoon shooting a season-high 60 percent from the field and added 11 three-pointers. The Cowboys scored 52 points in the paint for the night and added 16 points off turnovers. Wyoming held a 37-34 advantage on the glass for the game.
Both teams got off to a fast start with both squads hitting their first two shots of the contest for a 5-5 game in the opening minute plus of action. The Pokes added a bucket from Maldonado and DuSell’s second triple of the game to make it a 10-5 at the 17:13 mark.
Junior Hunter Thompson added the Pokes’ fifth triple of the game to make it a 19-11 game at the 15:06 mark of the opening frame. Wyoming opened the game 4-of-5 from behind the arc. The Spartans would make 5-of-6 field goals to make it a 25-24 contest with 11 minutes left in the half.
The Spartans would take a 27-26 lead at the 9:49 mark of the half on Omari Moore’s second triple of the game, but the responded with a DuSell three to take the lead back at 29-27 the following trip down the floor. Ike would get into double-figures and score five-straight points to help the Pokes build a nine point lead at 41-32 with under six minutes left.
Ike would move the lead to 16-points with a slam off a touch pass from Maldonado and a layup off a pass from Williams for a 52-36 game with under three-minute left in the half. Wyoming would take a 59-45 lead into the break with Ike adding 21 points and Maldonado adding 12 points.
The Spartans opened the second half on a 5-0 run to make it a 59-50 contest in favor of the Brown and Gold. But the Pokes added a 5-0 run themselves highlighted by DuSell’s fourth and fifth triples for a 67-50 game with 16:25 left in the game.
Wyoming would push the lead to as much as 21 points at 75-54 with 13:28 left in the game. Ike got the contest to 87-61 with a pair of free throws with 8:25 left in the game. Junior Drake Jeffries added a triple for a 98-68 lead with 5:37 remaining and the Pokes would take the contest 111-80.
The Spartans were led by Richard Washington with 18 points on the night. He also tied for the team lead with six assists. Moore also added six assists and 15 points.
The Cowboys will face top-seeded San Diego State on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Air Force Reserve MW Basketball Championship.
* University of Wyoming press release
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