WYOMING BASKETBALL: Cardiac Cowboys’ Comeback Falls Short in Conference Opener  

After trailing by 18 early in the second half, Wyoming cannot seal the deal against Fresno State

Sixth-year guard Hunter Maldonado looked to be back in his shooting ways of last year, totaling 13 points on 4-7 from the field. But four turnovers put a damper on Maldonado’s night as the Cowboys fell to Fresno State, 58-53, on Wednesday. (Courtesy photo from the University of Wyoming Athletics)

By Kaycee Clark-Mellott

Special to the Wyoming Truth

FRESNO, Calif.— The University of Wyoming began Mountain West Conference (MWC) play with a 5-7 record when the team faced the Fresno State Bulldogs on Wednesday. For the 2021-22 season, the Cowboys only lost seven games in the entire regular season, so they arrived in California with something to prove against a team that had an even worse record, 4-7.

In their last 10 matchups, Wyoming trailed the Bulldogs 4-6. But since head coach Jeff Linder took over the basketball program, the Pokes were 3-1 against Fresno.  

Guard Ethan Anderson was a glass cleaner for the Cowboys, grabbing nine rebounds on the night. His late-missed free throws proved to be costly for the Cowboys in their 58-53 loss to the Bulldogs. (Courtesy photo from the University of Wyoming Athletics)

Wednesday’s game began with back-and-forth scoring, including three ties and two lead changes. Fresno went on a 15-0 run late in the first half, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 36-20. Wyoming battled back and entered halftime down 38-25.

The game played out almost the same as Wyoming’s losses to Saint Mary’s and Dayton, when the team allowed a big run in the first half before somewhat fighting back. Still, being down 13 at the break to the worst team in the MWC was not equivalent to the Cowboys’ previous defeats.   

The Bulldogs’ Isaih Moore dominated Wyoming in the paint, catching alley-oops and dunking the ball all over the Cowboys’ defense. Moore scored 10 points while guard Jemarl Baker, Jr. scored 13. The Fresno State team also outrebounded the Pokes 19-11. 

The Cowboys’ only true offense came from guard Noah Reynolds, who scored 12 points in the first half. Both teams were abysmal from the charity stripe, with Wyoming shooting one for seven and the Bulldogs one for three.

To open the second half, Wyoming looked to be on the comeback once again. Fresno scored a quick eight points to Wyoming’s three, making it 46-28. The Cowboys slowly chipped away at the lead, but from 15:25 to 9:58 left in the game, the score stood still at 46-32.

Then came out the cardiac Cowboys. Wyoming ate away at the lead while Fresno State held the ball until there wasn’t enough time for a good enough shot. The Pokes tied it up with 3:49 left, 49-49. During this period, the Bulldogs shot one for 22 at a point.

Wyoming toyed with the lead, eventually capturing it with a layup from Reynolds. But allowing an offensive rebound to a 3-point jump shot with a minute left put Fresno State back on top. Wyoming failed to score again and fell to the Bulldogs 58-53. The team’s first loss in the MWC, which puts the Cowboys at the bottom of the conference.

Reynolds contributed 16 points in the game, and Hunter Maldonado scored 13 but added on four of the Cowboys’ seven turnovers.

The Bulldogs’ Baker scored 20, while Moore added 13.  

Wyoming missed seven of 15 free throw attempts and only shot 29.2% from beyond the arc. Fresno shot 19.4% from the field and 12.5 % from three in the second half, but did just enough in the first half to squeak out the victory.

Next games up  

After three weeks on the road, Wyoming will return to Laramie on Dec. 31 and host the undefeated New Mexico Lobos (12-0) at 2 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast on FS1 and the Cowboy Sports Network. Wyoming will then face the San Diego State Aztecs (9-3) on Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. MST, with broadcasts on CBS and the Cowboy Sports Network.

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