EL PASO, Tex. – The Cowboys hindered by cold shooting and turnovers in the first half fell to East Tennessee State, 76-53, in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational opener on Friday evening in the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. Wyoming falls to 3-8 overall with the Buccaneers moving to 9-4 overall.
“ETSU took advantage of offensive rebounding and driving the basketball,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “But what I love about this group is the fight and we have to keep going with the process. We have a lot that can be learned from both halves to use for tomorrow’s game and future contests as well.”
The Pokes were led in scoring by redshirt freshman Hunter Thompson. He recorded a career-high 25 points, all which came in the second half. He went an impressive 7-of-8 from behind the arc for a career-high. It tied a season-high in triples for a Cowboy, as Hendricks hit seven against Denver in the Pokes’ last contest. Senior Justin James added eight points, as he did not reach double-figures for the first time this season. He did add a team-high six assists on the night and eight rebounds.
“Hunter (Thompson) is growing as a basketball player and was really knocking down shots this evening,” Edwards said.
The Cowboys shot 31 percent from the field going 16-of-52, a season-low. Wyoming hit only one field goal in the first half, but shot 58 percent from the field in the second half. ETSU shot 46 percent from the field on the night going 31-of-68. The Bucs, one of the nation’s top rebounding teams recorded 48 to the Pokes’ 34. The Bucs also added 52 points in the paint for the evening.
“You have to talk about the first half and I shared my thoughts with the guys in the locker room,” Edwards said. “It was about energy and effort. I thought we did a great job in the second half executing and understanding what was available for us. We came off ball streets and got Thompson involved. We cut it to 11 points playing with edge. ETSU executed better than us down the stretch.”
ETSU raced out to a 10-0 lead on the Pokes in the opening two minutes of the contests. The Pokes recorded four turnovers in their first five possessions.
The Pokes struggled offensively to open the game, as Wyoming went 0-of-9 from the field to open the game. Junior Jake Hendricks hit the first field goal of the game, a three pointer at the 10:31 mark of the frame. ETSU forced nine turnovers to that point of the ball game.
The Buccaneers continued to control play in the opening half taking a 43-11 lead into the break. Wyoming recorded 12 turnovers in frame, as ETSU scored 16 points on those miscues. The Bucs also recorded 12 second chance points in the first frame.
Thompson hit four three pointers to fuel a 13-2 run to open the second half to make it a 45-24 game in the opening three plus minutes. The stretch in 3:42 of the second half was a career-high in threes for the Wyoming native.
James would add four-straight points for the Pokes including a transition dunk to make it a 49-31 contest with 12:50 left. Hendricks and Thompson added a pair of three pointers on back-to-back possessions to make it a 57-43 game with just under 10 minutes left.
Trevon “TJ” Taylor and James added a 5-0 run themselves to make it a 59-48 contest with 7:36 remaining. But the Buccaneers hit back-to-back threes to push the advantage to 65-48 minutes later. The Pokes would run out of gas from that points, as ETSU took the game 76-53.
ETSU was led by Patrick Good and Jeromy Rodriguez, as both added a team-high 12 points. Rodriguez made it a double-double with 14 rebounds.
The Cowboys will wrap up play at the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Saturday against either Norfolk State or UTEP at a time to be determined.