Cowboys battle, but attempt at a straight third upset falls short

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Wyoming’s Kenny Foster drives the lane in Wyoming’s 89-82 semi-final loss to Utah State Friday night in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Tim Nwachukwu NCAA

ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (Mar. 7, 2020) — The clock finally struck twelve for the Cinderella Wyoming Cowboys last night and their upset run at the Mountain West Basketball Championship in Las Vegas. The No. 11 seeded Pokes lost, 89-82, to No. 2 seeded Utah State in the last night’s late semi-final game at the Thomas and Mack Center.

 

The Cowboys became the first No. 11 seed in the men’s tournament history to win a single game, must less two, and make it to the semi-finals. The loss ended Pokes season with a 9-24 record. Utah State improves to 25-8 and will meet 30-1 San Diego State, an 81-68 winner over Boise State, in this evening’s championship game. Both teams are projected to play in the NCAA Tournament.

While Wyoming never led in the game, Utah State could never pull away and feel secure in victory. The game was tied at 11-11 at the 14:17 mark in the first half. Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado hit a layup with 9:11 to go to cut an Aggie lead to just two, 22-20, slightly more than halfway through the opening half.

 

Utah State would get the first half lead to nine-points, 34-25, with 4:33 left, but layups by  Kwane Marble II layup and Kenny Foster would bring the Cowboys back to within five-points, 34-24.  The half would end with Utah State leading 38-31.

In the second half, Utah State’s Brock Miller hit a three-point shot to put the Aggie lead at 10-points, 41-31. But, the Pokes would answer with an 11-4 run, aided by Maldonado and Jake Hendricks each hitting three-pointers, and the Utah State lead was just 45-42 with 13:47 to play.

Wyoming would get within two points, 53-51 at the 10:28 mark and again, 58-56 with 7:49 to play, but could never take the lead. The Pokes eventually tied the game at 66-66 with 4:45 left on a pair the Marbel free-throws.

But from the that point on, the Aggies offense would not miss. Utah State would go on a 13-0 run to take a 79-66 game with just over 1:28 left to go in the game. Hunter Thompson’s three free-throws would stop the Pokes scoring drought, but the Cowboys still trailed 79-69. Wyoming would get within six, 82-76, on a Maldonado layup, but no closer.

 

The Pokes senior Jake Hendricks finished the game with 11 points and three three-pointers, He finished the season with a total of 91, the fourth-most three-point shots made in a single season in Cowboy history.

Four other Wyoming players also scored in double figures, freshman Kenny Foster (18), sophomore Hunter Thompson’s (17), freshman Kwane Marble II (15), and red-shirt sophomore Hunter Maldonado (14). Foster would end the tournament averaging 19.7 points-per-game.