(Editor's note: UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE - The Wyoming Cowboys returned to men's basketball action for the first time in three weeks as Graham Ike recorded the game winning basket with three seconds left to lift the Cowboys to a 71-69 win over Utah State in a Mountain West opener on Saturday evening. The Pokes improve to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
“The start was good for us, but the way we finished with three-straight stops was special,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “I challenged the guys at the half because I thought Utah State had better energy late in the first half. In the second half we made some winning plays. What can I say about our guys, we haven’t had a whole practice and for us to come out with the effort was excellent.”
Ike and guard Hunter Maldonado combined for 44 points with 23 from Ike and 21 from Maldonado. Both added eight rebounds on the night to also lead the team. Maldonado added six assists on the night. Guard Drake Jeffries added 14 points on 4-of-7 from behind the arc. Forward Jeremiah Oden added 11 points for the Pokes.
The Pokes shot 52 percent from the field in the game and 38 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming held the Aggie offense to 41 percent from the field, as USU averaged 49 percent heading into the game. The Pokes held the Aggies to only two three-pointers in the second frame.
The Pokes raced out to an early 11-4 lead in the opening six-plus minutes of action. The entire starting five got into the scoring, which included a trio of three-pointers from Jeffries, Oden and Maldonado. The Pokes would later push the lead to 10-points at 18-8 with 10:42 left in the opening frame thanks to a and-one play from Oden.
Utah State answered with a 10-0 run over three minutes to tie the contest with just over seven minutes left in the half. Ike would stop the run with his third layup of the contest. Ike would score back-to-back baskets to build the lead to 26-22.
The Pokes would build the lead to 28-23, but a 5-0 run by the Aggies tied the contest with just over a minute left in the first frame. Utah State would take their first lead with a three-pointer with 1:01 left in the half for a 31-29 contest, but Maldonado added a pair of free throws for a 31-31 game at the break.
The Pokes went on a 5-2 run to take a 36-33 lead in the opening two minutes of the half and would take a 43-37 lead on a Jeffries triple with 16:10 left in the game. Rylen Jones would add his fourth three-pointer of the game to tie the contest at 48-48 at the 13:39 mark of the frame.
The Pokes would go on a 7-0 run to take a 55-50 lead with 9:04 left in the game. The Poke defense held the Aggies scoreless for over four minutes. The Aggies would shorten the lead down to one-point, but the Pokes thanks to Maldonado would make it a 59-54 game with six and half minutes remaining.
Maldonado would continue his dominance with three-straight baskets including a dish from Hunter Thompson to make it a seven-point contest at 65-58, but the Aggies added back-to-back layups to make it a 65-62 game with three minutes remaining.
Jones would add an and-one play to give the Aggies a 67-65 lead with 1:33 remaining in the contest, as it was a part of a 9-0 run for Utah State.
Ike would tie the game with free throws with 1:15 left and Oden gave the Pokes a 69-67 lead on a layup with 40 seconds remaining. After Bean tied the contest, Ike added a late layup and the Pokes got the stop to take the win 71-69.
The Aggies were led by Bean and Jones each adding 19 points. Bean led the team with 13 rebounds for the double-double.
The Pokes remain on the road, traveling to Nevada Monday for a 6 p.m. tip time against the Wolf Pack inside the Lawlor Events Center in a contest on FS1.