LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (MARCH 5, 2020) — In a city of numbers, three was a very good number last night in Las Vegas for the Wyoming Cowboy basketball team. Their game in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference Men’s Championship was meeting number three of the year with Colorado State (the Rams won the first two). The Pokes would start the game making three, three-point shots on their way to making a total of eight the first half (tying their season high). And, a Wyoming win would send them into a Thursday game against the No. 3 seed, Utah State, which will now happen thanks to their upset, 80-74, victory over the rival, and No. 6 seed, CSU.
Jake Hendricks got the Cowboys off to a 9-4 lead with a trio of triples in the first two-plus minutes of the contest. It would be a lead, the Pokes would never relinquish.
After CSU cut the lead to 9-6, TJ Taylor and Kwane Marble III added five points to build a 14-6 Wyoming lead with 16:05 in the opening frame. Marble II and Greg Milton III knocked down triples with under 14 minutes to play, as Wyoming built the lead to 12 points at 22-10. To that point of the contest, Wyoming was 6-of-7 from behind the arc.
With Wyoming leading 26-10, Colorado State would score five-straight baskets and add free throws in cutting the Cowboy lead to 28-26 game with 6:40 left in the half. Taylor would add his second three of the game and Marble answered with another three-pointer to push the Pokes lead back to eight, 34-26, with 5:45 to go in the half. The Cowboy lead at the half was 44-39.
Wyoming’s season scoring leader, Hunter Maldonado, opened the second half with a pair of baskets in the first ninety seconds to make it a 48-39 game. Hendricks pushed the lead back to double-digits at 51-40 with 18:08 left in the game. But, the Rams weren’t done. Going on their own 11-0 run over the next five minutes, CSU closed to 53-51 with just under 12 minutes remaining. Marble II ended the Pokes scoring drought with a three- pointer seconds later to build the lead back to five, 56-51.
CSU’s Hyron Edwards would knock down a three to again make it a two-point game with 8:55 left, but the Pokes Marble II answered with another triple and Maldonado added a second to up Wyoming’s lead to 64-56 with 6:41 left.
Banks added back-to-back Wyoming baskets with under four minutes remaining to up the lead to 69-56. The Pokes would then seal the game at free throw line, finishing the contest 5-8 in the final minute on their way to the 80-74 victory.
For the game, the Cowboys shot 12 for 26 from the beyond the three-point line, had a season-high 19 assists, and a season-low seven turnovers.
Five Pokes reached double-digit scoring in the game. Kwane Marble II (20), Jake Hendricks (16), TJ Taylor (15), Hunter Maldonado (13) and AJ Banks (10) provided a balanced attack. Marble II’s output is a career-high and the first 20-point game for the freshman.
The Cowboys advance to tonight’s quarterfinals to face third-seeded Nevada, which had an opening round bye. Game time is 9:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on WyoRadio’s 99.7 JACK FM and streamed at 99KSIT.com beginning at 9 p.m.
In other first round scores from the MW men’s tournament:
Air Force 77 – Fresno State 70, New Mexico 79 – San Jose State 66.
Air Force vs. San Diego State, Boise State vs. UNLV, New Mexico vs. Utah State, Wyoming vs. Nevada