Rough Second Half, Costly for the Cowboys at Utah St.

photo courtesy of Utah St. media relations

by staff–5 Mar ’21

Despite hitting eight three-pointers in the first half, the Wyoming Cowboys could not slow down the inside game of Utah State, in a 72-59 loss on Thursday evening in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. The Pokes fall to 12-10 on the season and 6-9 in the conference. The Aggies, who are battling for a berth in the NCAA Tournament, improve to 17-7 overall and 14-4 in the MW.

“It starts on the defense end,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “In the first half we forced Utah State into misses and baited them into shots we wanted. But in the second half it boiled down to open looks that we didn’t make. We had to make plays and just can’t give away that many empty possessions. It is a 40 minute games and you can see the discipline and effort from a veteran team and a young team.”

Junior Hunter Maldonado led the scoring, with 14 points, for his 16th game this season with double-figures and the 55th of his career, as he also added eight rebounds. Freshman Xavier DuSell added 12 points for the Cowboys for his 11th game in double-figures this season. Junior Hunter Thompson added 11 points for his fifth double-figure scoring game of the season. He also added a career high, 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.

“Everyone fought hard tonight and Hunter Thompson did a good job tonight on the boards and against Justin Bean,” Linder said. “I was pleased with the effort of our guys tonight.”

The Pokes finished the game shooting 38 percent from the field, after shooting 48-percent in the first half. Wyoming was held to 1-of-14 from behind the arc in the second half. The Aggies shot 46 percent from the field for the night and held a 42-33 advantage on the glass and had 38 points in the paint.

“We haven’t played a lot of games in the last 13 days, but this will help us moving to the final game and MW Tournament,” Linder said. “As we go back and look at the film it will show that we settled for shots and that is something that will need to be adjusted.”

The Pokes recorded three early turnovers with the Aggies building a 6-2 lead in the opening minutes. DuSell would add a three-pointer to make it 6-5 at the 15:42 mark of the first half. Wyoming would take a 13-12 lead with 12 minutes left in the half on a triple from junior Drake Jeffries, as the Pokes hit three of their first five three-point attempts.

Thompson and Jeffries would add back-to-back threes to build a 19-12 lead midway through the half. The Pokes maintained that lead and held Utah St. scoreless for over three minutes, as Justin Bean recorded an and-one play for a 19-15 contest at the 9:08 mark of the first half.

The Aggies battled back and took a 24-22 lead on a dunk from Neemias Queta at the 5:42 mark of the half. Maldonado would later tie the game at 27-27 with the Cowboys’ seventh triple of the half with just over four minutes left in the opening 20 minutes.

Utah State would go on a 5-0 run to take a 32-27 game with under three minutes left in the stanza. The Pokes hit back-to-back layups to make it a two-point game at 34-32 and Jeffries made it a one-point game, but Utah State hit a pair of free throws to take a 38-35 lead into the half. Wyoming hit eight threes in the first half, the fifth time this season the Cowboys have hit eight or more threes in the first half.

Queta helped the Aggies build a five-point lead in the opening minutes of the second half with a pair of buckets in the opening three minutes. The Pokes would make it a three-point game, but Justin Bean would push the Aggie lead back to five and a dunk from Queta made it a 48-41 game with 14:21 left.

Utah State would maintain the seven point advantage through the second half holding the Pokes scoreless for over two minutes making it a 50-43 contest. Sophomore Kwane Marble II ended the drought with a layup, but USU responded with a pair of triples to push the lead to 56-45 with 10:48 left in the game, but Thompson responded right back with a three the following possession.

The Aggies would go on to make 5-of-6 shots to build a 62-50 lead with eight minutes remaining. Marble II ended another scoring drought for the Pokes making it a 64-52 contest with six minutes remaining.  Utah State would add a pair of threes and would close the game and take the 72-59 win.

Utah State was led by Queta with 14 points and 13 rebounds for the double-double. He also added five blocks on the night. Bean added 21 points on the night and 20 rebounds. Also adding a double-double 

Wyoming closes out the regular season on Saturday evening at 9 p.m. taking on UNLV in the Arena-Auditorium.

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