Laramie, WY – The Wyoming Cowboys (1-3) nearly erased an eight point halftime deficit, but in the end came up short in a 72-67 loss to Niagara (2-1) Friday evening in the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
The Cowboys were down by three when Cowboy sophomore Hunter Maldonado attempted a deep corner three point shot to possibly send the game into overtime, but the shot was off with Niagara snagging the rebound and then sinking two free throws to secure the victory.
Senior Justin James led the Pokes for the fourth time this season with 23 points. He scored 17 in the second half, as he also added eight rebounds. James was 7-of-8 from the free throw line and has made 24-of-last-25 dating back to Oregon State. Maldonado added his second-straight double-double with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Junior Jake Hendricks tied a career-high with 15 points on a career-best six field goals.
The Cowboy offense started the contest slow, as Niagara raced out to a 9-4 lead. The Pokes opened the contest 2-of-7 from the field in the opening five minutes of play. Woming trailed at the half, 33-25.
The Pokes opened the second half with layups from Maldonado and Nyaires Redding to make it a 33-29 game a minute into the half. The Pokes tied the game at 36-36, but Marvin Prochet hit his fifth three of the game to make it 39-33 in favor of NU with 15:32 left in the contest.
Wyoming took their first lead of the game at the 11:54 mark of the second half on a James three pointer to make it a 46-45 contest. The UW lead lasted only seconds as Niagara responded with a three-pointer to take the lead back.
Niagara would later build the lead to eight at 57-59 on a Dominic Robb three-pointer with just under nine minutes left in the contest. The Pokes would make three-straight field goals to tie the game at 59-59 with 4:18 left in the second half.
Niagara’s Chris Barton would hit a three pointer to make it a 62-59 game shortly after the Pokes tied the game to make it 64-61 NU with 2:45 left. Wyoming would cut the Niagara lead to one point twice late, but the Purple Eagles hit six free throws late to take the contest, 72-67.
The Cowboys heads to the Sunshine State for the Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-off. Wyoming opens the two-game tournament on Monday at 7 p.m. against Boston College. The game will be broadcast on WyoRadio’s 99.7 JACK-FM and streamed at 99KSIT.com.