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.