WYOMING BASKETBALL: Cowboys Snap Four-Game Skid with Back-to-Back Wins

Jeff Linder and his team end their out-of-conference homestand with dominant wins, looking to trend in right direction

Senior Kenny Foster got his first start of the season against Texas A&M-Commerce. He also started against Louisiana Tech, scoring 12 points in Wyoming's 92-65 victory on Saturday. (Courtesy photo from University of Wyoming Athletics)

By Kaycee Clark-Mellott

Special to the Wyoming Truth

After losing four straight games, the Wyoming Cowboys men’s basketball team regained momentum to close out their homestand. Now, the Cowboys stand at 5-5 on the season. Here’s a recap of last week’s games. 

Louisiana Tech (6-2) – Laramie

Dec 6, 2022; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys forward Jeremiah Oden (25) against the Texas A&M Commerce Lions at Arena-Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-UW Media-Athletics

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs entered the Arena-Auditorium on a five-game winning streak. But their luck ran out, as the Cowboys dominated the Bulldogs on Saturday and posted a decisive  92-65 victory. 

After a slow start, Wyoming poured on points throughout the first half and entered halftime with a 20-point lead.  The Pokes’ Brendan Wenzel scored 13 points and Kenny Foster contributed 10. Wyoming’s shooting percentage exceeded that of previous games, with 56% from the field. The Cowboys led at halftime 44-24.

In the second half, the Bulldog defense stiffened up against the Cowboys, but it didn’t stifle the trends of the first half. Wyoming continued to control the court and won 92-65.

The Bulldogs only scored two points off fast breaks, in part due to the Wyoming defense, and committed 11 turnovers compared to Wyoming’s five.

Wyoming’s Noah Reynolds and Wenzel led the team with 20 points each. Hunter Maldonado ended with 13 and seven assists, Foster finished with 12 points and Jeremiah Oden scored 11. 

Texas A&M-Commerce (4-5) – Laramie 

In a must-win game, the Cowboys hosted the Texas A&M-Commerce Lions on Dec. 6. Entering the game, 3-5, Wyoming was in desperate need of a victory.

The Pokes’ starting lineup looked a bit different than usual, with guard Ethan Anderson unavailable due to an illness. The Cowboys started the game with Hunter Thompson, Wenzel, Maldonado, Xavier DuSell and Kenny Foster, who made his first start for the team since the 2020-21 season.

Wyoming got out to a fast 7-0 lead, with Foster scoring four of the seven. During the first six minutes of the game, Wyoming extended its lead to 16-5—the team’s largest of the first half. But the Lions continued to knock down shots, eating away at the Cowboys’ advantage.

Dec 6, 2022; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys guard Noah Reynolds (21) against the Texas A&M Commerce Lions at Arena-Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-UW Media-Athletics

After a 7-0 run, the Lions took the lead with 4:29 left in the first half and held it until 0:36 seconds when Reynolds tied the game  and then took the lead with two shots at the free throw line. The Lions’ JJ Romer Rosario put up a 3-pointer to regain the lead, 42-40, and as time ticked down, Reynolds responded with a three of his own. At halftime, Wyoming led 43-42  in a game where they were favored by 11 points.

The Lions’ free throw shooting helped them stay in the game. They arrived in Laramie having shot 54.6% from the charity stripe, but at the half, they were shooting 92.3% on 13 attempts. In comparison, Wyoming only shot 70.8% from the line and 28.6% from three.

In the second half, Wyoming seized control and took a 15-point lead with 10:45 left in the game. But the Lions regained momentum and cut into Wyoming’s lead. With 6:11 left on the clock, the Cowboys were up by six. The Cowboys only allowed  the Lions to score eight points in the last six minutes to win the game 91-76.

Reynolds off the bench became the star of the game, scoring 30 points with 18 coming in the second half. Wenzel added a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Foster contributed 14 points. But the Pokes shot an abysmal 28.6% from beyond the arc and only 67.4% from the free throw line.

Despite the win and a 4-5 record, Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder was not pleased with the fans in the arena. Late in the game, after Reynolds took a charge from the Lions, Linder and the Cowboy bench tried to fire up the crowd. Few fans got their feet.

“It’s easy to come in and root and cheer when you win 20 games and everything is going great,” Linder said after the game. “For us to be in a game like that, where you’re up 10 and Noah Reynolds makes an unbelievable winning play and for nobody to get up and cheer and not bring any energy, it’s just disappointing.” 

Next games up

The Cowboys will wrap up their non-conference schedule with two road games. On Dec. 17, the Pokes will travel to Chicago to play at the United Center against the University of Dayton (6-5) in the Legends of Basketball Showcase. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MST. On Dec. 21, Wyoming will travel to Phoenix to face Saint Mary’s University (8-3) in the Jerry Colangelo Classic, set to begin at 6:30 p.m. MST. Both games will be broadcast on the Cowboys Sports Network.

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