Wyoming’s latest win takes ‘Cardiac Cowboys’ to 6-0 in two-point games | men’s basketball
LARAMIE — The “Cardiac Cowboys” moniker makes sense from the perspective of a fan base that was hungry for something to cheer on and is now on the edge of its seat every game.
The best word to describe the Wyoming 2021-22 basketball team?
Not so much at the start of Tuesday’s game when head coach Jeff Linder was slapped with two technical fouls and prevented from going after the men in stripes, but the Pokes showed remarkable balance in the closing moments. of the season.
UW improved to 6-0 in games decided by two runs with the 78-76 overtime win over Utah State at the Arena-Auditorium.
The trend started with the 71-69 win over Northern Iowa on Dec. 23 in Honolulu. The Panthers are 10-2 since the Diamond Head Classic game and are currently in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 10-1 record.
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After a three-week hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns around the conference, the Cowboys opened Mountain West play with a 71-69 victory over the Aggies in Logan.
The difference between Utah State entering the NCAA Tournament or being left out on draft Sunday may be a very slim margin for getting swept away by Linder and Co.
The Pokes also escaped with two-point wins over New Mexico (93-91), Air Force (63-61) and Fresno State (61-59) while climbing to the top of the standings.
Two of UW’s losses, to Stanford (66-63) and Boise State (65-62), were also one-possession games that the Cowboys had a chance to tie at the end of regulation with 3-pointers. which have not gone down.
“You would like to be Gonzaga once in a while and be up 30 with about four minutes to go and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not the Mountain West,” Linder said. “Top to bottom there is not much difference between the teams, and we know that and we know that our preparation, our mentality, has to be our separator.”
The Cowboys (20-3 overall, 9-1 MW) moved up to 28th in the NET rankings after the Utah State thriller and will likely crack the Associated Press poll for the first time in seven years with a win Saturday at San Jose State.
Not too shabby for a team chosen to finish tied with New Mexico for eighth place in the preseason MW poll.
“It just shows the hard work everyone across the program has done and the sacrifices the guys have made,” Linder said. “My coaching team, my support team, we have everyone pointing in the same direction.”
The DeWeese Room
Linder getting ejected wasn’t the only problem the Pokes faced in the first five minutes against the Aggies.
One of the team’s MW Player of the Year nominees (Hunter Maldonado) was in the practice room getting checked out for a sprained ankle and the other (Graham Ike) was heading to the bench with two faults.
Ken DeWeese, who took over as head coach, wanted the team to use Linder’s emotional outing as motivation.
The Dome of Doom was a din of hostility during the emotional streak that culminated with Linder getting the hook.
“I don’t think we wanted to settle things. I think maybe we were too settled to start this game,” DeWeese said. “I know things were a little funky with Graham getting those two fouls and Maldo being out, but we felt like maybe we were a little flat for some reason.
“What happened (to Linder) happened. I think that gave us a bit of a fire.
UW rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to win its fifth straight game. DeWeese is now 2-0 replacing Linder, who was also ejected from a win over New Mexico last season.
“They’re so resilient and they’re so tough and they play for each other,” DeWeese said of the tight-knit group of players after the team’s third overtime win of the season. “For them to go into that group when Coach Linder was kicked out like, ‘We’re going to do it.’
“It wasn’t pretty, but that’s what we’ve been doing all year.”
Traffic jam of all leagues
Picking the first team of all conferences in the MW this season is going to be a challenge for coaches and the media.
Maldonado has been MW Player of the Week three times. The 6-foot-7 senior leads the conference in assists (6.4 ppg) and is third in points (19.5 ppg).
Ike is second in points (20.4 ppg) and third in rebounds (9.0 rpg). The 6-9 sophomore forward is averaging 13.1 points in the second half of MW games.
David Roddy of Colorado State (19.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg), selected to the first team last season, is even better this season. Fresno State 7-footer Orlando Robinson (18.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg) has emerged as an intriguing NBA prospect.
UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton is averaging a MW-leading 21.3 points and had 45 points in a win at Colorado State. Utah State’s Justin Bean is averaging a MW-leading 10.0 rebounds and is sixth in scoring (18.5 ppg).
Boise State’s Abu Kigab and Marcus Shaver lead the Broncos’ balanced lineup. San Diego State’s Matt Bradley was an all-Pac-12 player before the transfer and Nathan Mensah might be the best defensive player in MW.
AJ Walker (third team) from the Air Force, Isaiah Stevens (second team) from CSU and Grant Sherfield (first team) and Desmond Cambridge (second team) from Nevada are among the players honored last season who could be overshadowed in a some extent with more stars in the MW galaxy.
If the Cowboys continue on the path to a regular season title, you can go ahead and nominate Linder as MW Coach of the Year.
UW eclipsed the 20-win mark for the 24th time in program history and ninth time as a MW member. …
The 9-1 conference record is the program’s best start since the formation of the MW. Steve McClain’s 2001-02 team was 8-1 and finished 11-3 in MW regular season games before receiving a general invitation to the NCAA Tournament. …
The Cowboys are now 5-0 in disputed overtime under the Linder era, outscoring the teams 64-31 in overtime during the streak.
“Ike just got the game back in the second half, it felt like,” Bean told the Logan (Utah) Herald Journal after Ike scored 28 points and made the game-winning field goal for the second time this season against Utah State. . “We had a solid game plan. Everyone was on the same page. Again, (Ike) is a tough game, really physical guy. It will go right at you and has mid-range play.
Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn