Wyoming heats up MWC play with win over Utah

The Wyoming Cowboys (9-11, 2-4 MWC) played the Utah Runnin’ Utes (10-10, 3-3) on Wednesday night in a white-knuckle game that came down to the final seconds with the home team coming out on top 75-69.

The Pokes entire team played hard, but was led in statistics by Adam Waddell and his MWC record-tying 22 rebounds. The last Wyoming player to accumulate 20 rebounds in a game was Justin Williams in 2005 and Waddell’s total is second in Arena-Auditorium history only to UW Hall of Famer Reggie Slater’s 27 rebounds.

For a vast majority of the first half, the teams were neck-and-neck with each other. The battle of the evening was between Waddell and Utah’s David Foster down in the paint. Foster came into the game with six or more blocks seven times this season, but he left Laramie with none. Waddell, on the other hand, wasn’t fazed at all by his 7’3” opponent, and muscled his way around the hoop all game long. The Cowboys showed a lot of determination on the court, even though they were without leading scorer Afam Muojeke.

“I think every guy on this team really stepped up and played really well,” according to UW head coach Heath Schroyer.  “These guys have been through a lot and there’s no quit in ‘em’.”

The slack was no big deal for the Pokes and was quickly picked up by JayDee Luster and freshman Desmar Jackson. Wyoming struggled at the free-throw line all game, but made up for it with their defense and hustle. At the half Wyoming was narrowly ahead of Utah 35-32.

Coming out of the locker room the Cowboys were ready to control the game and inflict their will upon the Utes. They grabbed early momentum in the half with some big rebounds by Waddell and dunks on back-to-back possessions by Jackson and Djibril Thiam. In the middle of the second half the Utes picked up the pace and finally snatched a momentary lead on the Pokes. They soon relinquished that lead after the fans started getting rowdy and made their presence felt. Another key reason for the Pokes recapturing the lead was that Utah’s Foster and Kim Tille both fouled out with less than four minutes left in the game. The Cowboys did their jobs well, which was shown by Thiam taking a charge in the paint and creating a turnover and then the 5’8” Luster blocked Utah’s Marshall Henderson, the NCAA freshman leader in made 3-pointers with 46, as he went up for what would have been a game-tying trey. The Cowboys held their opponent scoreless for the last four minutes of the game for the victory.

Leading the way for Wyoming was Waddell with 13 points and 22 rebounds (his first career double-double) and Jackson with 21 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

The Utes were led by juniors Jay Watkins and Carlon Brown. Watkins had 12 points and four rebounds, while Brown carried the load with a career-high 31 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 31 minutes of play.

Next up for the Cowboys is Air Force (8-11, 0-6) in Colorado Springs this coming Saturday. The Falcons are coming off six-straight losses in MWC play, but the Cowboys won’t be taking them lightly.

“They’re [Air Force] no push-over at all – at all. They are going to be a tough team to beat but we have to come in focused and ready to go to play that game,” stated Waddell post-game.