WYOMING BASKETBALL: Four Straight Losses Give UW One of the Worst Records in the Mountain West Conference

Top players are sidelined with injuries

Noah Reynolds brings the ball up the court against Santa Clara University in Salt Lake City, Utah. Reynolds scored 25 against the Broncos while leading the Cowboys to overtime, where they ultimately fell 89-85. (Courtesy photo from University of Wyoming Athletics)

By Kaycee Clark-Mellott

Special to the Wyoming Truth

The Wyoming Cowboys men’s basketball team has had a rough start to the season. After losing star players to injuries, the team has now dropped four straight games, falling below .500 and not looking like a team projected to compete for a conference title. Following the Paradise Jam tournament, the Cowboys played a neutral-site game against Santa Clara University, and three weeks later, hosted Grand Canyon University in Laramie. Nearly all of these games failed to go Wyoming’s way.

Grand Canyon – Laramie 

Saturday’s game against Grand Canyon began a two-week homestand for the Cowboys; Graham Ike, Noah Reynolds and Brendan Wenzel were out with injuries.  

The first half saw both teams shoot under 45%, with Wyoming at 34.4%. From beyond the arc, Wyoming shot 30% on 20 shots. Still, the Pokes only trailed 31-30 at halftime, and three players led the team with six points—Jake Kyman, Ethan Anderson and Hunter Maldonado.

The second half got even worse for the Cowboys. Wyoming shot just slightly better but lost to Grand Canyon 66-58. The team drops to 3-5, 10th in the Mountain West Conference.

The Pokes shot 14 more times than Grand Canyon, but made the same number of buckets. A combination of poor execution, lack of free throw opportunities and failure to stop Grand Canyon runs put the Cowboys at a disadvantage.

In his postgame press conference, head coach Jeff Linder acknowledged that the injuries plaguing the team posed a challenge on the court.

Dec 3, 2022; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys guard Xavier DuSell (53) against the Grand Canyon Antelopes at Arena-Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-UW Media-Athletics

“It’s tough because there’s no consistency, guys are playing different positions,” Linder said. “But those are just excuses.”

Santa Clara – Salt Lake City

At Santa Clara in Salt Lake City on Nov. 30, Wyoming played a tight game throughout thanks to an improved offense. The team was still missing its top two players—Ike and Maldonado. Without them, the Wyoming offense scored 44 in the first half, leading at halftime 44-36.

In the first half, Wyoming’s offense became focused around the three-point shot, which lifted the team to its eight-point lead. Noah Reynolds came off the bench as an offensive powerhouse.

In the second half, the Cowboys cooled off on offense and were outscored 41-33 by Santa Clara, tying the game late at 77 and forcing it to overtime. Wyoming’s offense failed to regain momentum and fell to Santa Clara, 89-85.  

Reynolds finished with 25 points while Max Agbonkpolo scored 14. Jeremiah Oden added 14 points off of the bench.

Linder called the game “one that we can build off of.”

The loss took the Cowboys to 3-4 on the season, their first losing record since March 2020 and Linder’s first losing record at Wyoming.

U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam  

Wyoming began the tournament against Howard University on Nov. 18. Maldonado dominated the game. Scoring 28 points on 10 for 17 shooting, he led the Cowboys to a 78-71 victory. The Pokes held Howard to 35% from beyond the arc and only 45.8% from the field. Wyoming had just 10 turnovers in the game, an improvement after averaging 14 per in their first three games.

In the semifinal round, the Cowboys advanced to play the undefeated Drake Bulldogs. The first half was one to forget for the Pokes, as they scored only 18 points and failed to make a bucket during the last four minutes of the half. Trailing by 16 points, 34-18, Wyoming went on a 20-6 run in the first eight and a half minutes of the second half, chipping away at Drake’s lead, now 40-38. But the Cowboys never recovered the lead and fell to Drake, 61-56. Maldonado scored 20 points; DuSell contributed 13 in his first major playing time this season.

The team fell to compete in the game for third place  against Boston College. The Eagles and Cowboys had a miserable day shooting from three, shooting 23.1% and 26.3%, respectively. Wyoming took a lead with 13:28 left in the second half, 35-34, before surrendering the lead 20 seconds later. Boston College  went on to win 59-48. Statistically, Wyoming only had one double digit scorer, Ethan Anderson with 11. Just after 11 minutes of play, Maldonado was pushed down on a no-call that sent his head into Oden’s knee. With a towel pressed against his head, he exited the game.

Next games up 

Wyoming will continue its homestand on Tuesday, hosting Texas A&M-Commerce at 7 p.m. MST. Next Saturday, Dec. 10, the Pokes will face Louisiana Tech in Laramie at the Arena-Auditorium at 7 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on the Mountain West Network and the Cowboy Sports Network.

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