The leading scoring duo in the nation went to work on Saturday, as Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike combined for 56 points in Wyoming’s 75-67 win over Air Force in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys improve to 22-4 overall and 11-2 in the Mountain West and moved to 12-0 at home this season.
“We talked in practice this week about how the last couple of games we played against Air Force we kind of had some lulls between the eight-minute mark and the four-minute mark of the first half,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said.
“Tonight, Graham (Ike) got his second foul during that time, and Air Force did some things a little differently defensively against us to try and limit he dribble downs by Maldo (Hunter Maldonado). I thought we still got some good shots. In the second half, we did a better job of knocking down shots.”
Maldonado led the Pokes in scoring with 29 points. He also added eight assists and seven rebounds and has eight or more assists in a game seven times this season. Ike recorded a double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds for his 11th of the season. He went a perfect 11-of-11 from the field. It is the only time this season in the nation a player has went 11-of-11 from the field, the previous best was 10-of10.
Wyoming shot 51 percent from the field and shot 54 percent in the second frame. Wyoming held Air force to 44 percent from the field, but the Falcons shot 47 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming held a 32-28 advantage on the glass and finished the night scoring 42 points in the paint and 11 on second chances.
“We just need to start making some threes again,” Linder said. “It’s one thing when you are shooting contested threes, but we had some uncontested looks that more times than not our guys knock down. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on making threes to win games. When you go 22 for 26 from the foul line like we did today — that’s the difference in the game.”
Both teams found early rhythm on the offensive end for an early 7-5 lead for the Pokes, as Ike, Maldonado and Jeffries did the damage for the Brown and Gold in the opening three minutes. The Pokes would push it to 12-7 contest thanks to Ike and Maldonado with 14:58 left in the half.
Maldonado got to double-digits with a turnaround for a 20-13 Wyoming lead halfway through the half. He opened the contest 4-of-5 from the field. DuSell would knock down a corner three-pointer followed by a three from Maldonado for a 28-15 game at the 8:05 mark of the opening frame.
The Falcons would cut the lead to single digits with a triple from Ethan Taylor for a 30-21 game with 4:37 left in the first half. Air Force would then hold the Pokes scoreless for over five minutes to close the half making it a four-point contest at 30-26 at the break.
Ike and Maldonado helped the Pokes early in the second frame to build a seven-point lead at 36-29 in the opening two minutes of the frame. Nikc Jackson made it a four-point game with an and-one play for a 40-36 Wyoming lead with 13:50 left in the game.
DuSell would hit a pair of free throws and Maldonado added an acrobatic layup for a 44-36 lead for the Pokes with 13:22 left in the game. Air Force would cut the lead to lead to three points and then tied the game at 46-46 with a three-pointer from Lucas Moerman at the 10:50 mark of the half.
Maldonado and Ike helped the Pokes take a 50-46 lead, but Moerman added another three for a one-point contest with eight-minute remaining. Once again Ike and Maldonado help lead a charge with a layup from and an and-one off a steal from Maldonado for a 55-49 lead for the Pokes with just over seven minutes left.
Brendan Wenzel would pick up and offensive rebound and a put back and later added a pair of free throws from a 63-55 game with 3:32 left in the contest. Ike would make it a 12-point game at 67-55 with just over two minutes left.
The Falcons cut it to 10-points with under a minute remaining, but a slam by Drake Jeffries pushed the lead back to 12 points. The Pokes would maintain the late advantage late despite some late shots by Air Force and took the contest 75-67.
The Falcons were led by Moerman with 15 points. AJ Walker added 14 points but was held to 7-of-19 from the field.
Wyoming returns to action on Wednesday heading to RV/RV Colorado State in a 7 p.m. start on CBS Sports Network.