(Editor's note: UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The Wyoming Cowboys closed out non-conference play with an 82-78 win over Omaha on Thursday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. Five players scored in double-figures for the night to help Wyoming improve to 6-1 overall. The Pokes record in non-conference is the best by percentage since opening 14-0 during the 2012-13 season.
“Winning is hard and I don’t care who you are playing, if you don’t play with discipline and effort teams are going to make you pay,” Linder said. “We knew that Omaha had that ability, but we made more plays than them down the stretch. For our guys to not get rattled being such a young team and for us to find ways to win games is great. We have a lot of room to grow and that is very exciting for us.”
Junior Drake Jeffries led the Pokes with 19 points including five three pointers. Sophomore Kwane Marble the second added a season-high 17 points off the bench. He scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Freshman Marcus Williams added 15 points and has scored in double-figures every game this season.
“Our balance tonight shows the depth of our team,” Linder said. “We don’t have much difference from 1 to 10 on this team. You don’t know which guy is going to step up when you have the luxury of having guys that can make shots off the bench. I’m proud of Kwane (Marble) tonight, he had that look in his eye that he was going to help us win the game.”
Junior Hunter Maldonado added his first double-double of the season and the fifth of his career with 14 points to go along with a season-high 12 rebounds. He nearly missed a triple-double with eight assists. Junior Hunter Thompson added 10 points for the Pokes for his second game in double figures this season.
The Pokes shot a season low 43 percent from the field, but knocked down 11 three pointers and have hit 10 or more threes in three-straight games. The Mavericks shot 44 percent from the field for the night and scored 54 points in the paint. Wyoming held a 43-42 advantage on the boards for the night and grabbed 10 offensive boards for 11 second chance points.
The Pokes got off to a slow start going 2-of-8 from the field to open the game, as the Mavericks built an 8-5 advantage in the opening five minutes. The Mavericks would hit seven-straight field goals, but the Pokes countered with three-straight for a 17-13 lead for Omaha with 12:54 left in the half.
“Our guys did a good job of taking the initial blow and really settled in defensively and finished the first half strong,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said “We got some timely stops when we needed to and it is a credit to this group and for us to find ways to win close games says a lot about them.”
Both teams would go on a scoring drought halfway through the half that nearly lasted three minutes until Marble II made it a four point deficit for the Pokes with a layup making it a 21-17 game with 8:49 left in the opening frame. Williams added a bucket shortly after to make it a two-point contest.
The Pokes would cut the deficit to one-point twice, but Omaha’s Matt Pile would push the lead back to three points in the paint with six minutes left in the half. Jeffries gave the Pokes their first lead of the game with a three-pointer at the 4:20 mark of the frame for a 27-25 Wyoming advantage.
After the three, Maldonado added a pair of freebies and another triple from Jeffries made it a 32-25 game with just over two minutes left in the half, as it marked a 10-0 run for Wyoming. The Mavericks closed the half on a 5-0 run for a 33-30 UW lead at the half, as Wyoming shot 39 percent from the field with Omaha shooting 38 percent.
The Pokes opened the first half on a 5-2 run for a 38-32 lead a minute into the frame. But the Mavericks went on a 6-0 run over the next minute to tie the game at 38-38 with 17:45 left in the game. Wyoming would build the lead to five points with a triple from Jeffries, but a technical foul after wards made it a 43-40 contest.
Jeffries continued to stay hot helping the Pokes helping build the lead to four points at 48-44, but Omaha was just as hot hitting four-straight shots to make it a 50-48. Marble II added a triple to make it a six point game at 57-51 halfway through the half.
The Mavericks used and-ones on back-to-back trips down the floor for a 59-57 game for Wyoming with 9:55 left in the game. The Pokes used free throws followed by a triple from Maldonado and jumper from Williams to build a 10 point lead at 67-57 with 7:13 left in the game.
Omaha went on an 8-2 run to mark it a 69-65 game with 5:42 left in the game, as the Omaha big men added all eight points for the Mavericks. Omaha would cut it to a two-point contest with 2:20 left in the game with a jumper from Pile. Wanjang Tut made it a one-point game at 74-74 with two minutes left in the game.
Thompson hit a three-pointer with 1:16 left for a 77-73 lead, but Omaha responded on the following possession for a one-point game once again. Maldonado and Marble II helped the Pokes build the lead to four points at the free throw line with 30 seconds, as Wyoming led 80-76. Wyoming continued to hit free throws late to take the game 82-78.
The Mavericks were led by Tut with 27 points and nine rebounds. Pile added 17 points and eight rebounds on the night.
The Cowboys return to action on January 2 opening up conference play against Fresno State on the road. The Pokes were scheduled to open conference play against UNLV this weekend, but those games were postponed.