By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus
LAS VEGAS – Wyoming fans literally raised the roof of the Thomas and Mack Center Thursday afternoon as their UW Cowboys defeated UNLV, 59-56. And boy, were these fans ever having a lot of fun!
Although the building was far from filled, it was obvious from the start that Wyoming had more fans on hand than their opponent, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, which was playing on its home court.
“Ragtime Cowboy Joe” was played repeatedly and the stands vibrated with the enthusiasm of the Cowboy State crowd. The win was very emotional for most of the fans.
Tears were streaming down his cheeks as Bill Beardsley of Cheyenne celebrated the big win. He had the loudest whistle in the huge auditorium and constantly cheered the Cowboys as the game ebbed and flowed in the second half. He and his wife Sherrie love the Cowboy teams and follow them all season long. “Sorry, but this is just so emotional,” he said, wiping his cheeks, while sporting a big smile. “We have lost so many games to these guys. What a relief!”
On Friday night, the Cowboys play Boise State in the next round of the annual Mountain West tournament here in Las Vegas. Boise State won their game, 59-57 over Reno.
Cowboy fans Dave Bostrom and his wife Marilyn were happy to be in the 52-degree weather of Sin City. “It is cold back in Wyoming, he said.” He reminded me that they live in “Worlando Beach,” rather the county seat of Washakie County named Worland.
My hometown of Lander was going to dip to minus 8 on this night, so, yes, the Vegas weather was welcome.
Paul Hickey and his wife Jeanne were enjoying a meal when I talked to them prior to the game. The Cheyenne couple was enjoying the Vegas weather but said their daughter lives in Pasadena so they get out of the cold as often as they can in the winter. Folks our age compare grandkids and the Hickeys said they enjoy hosting two of theirs as often as possible. They live in Denver.
Craig and Gay Wilson are big Cowboy fans. They live in Cheyenne and have season tickets. Before this big game, they admitted to being apprehensive about how well their favorite team would play in these unfriendly confines. This was especially so when their opponent was playing on its home court.
Wyoming sports is unique in having its very own Barrel Man. Ken Koretos of Cheyenne (“That’s a Greek name,” he says), shows up at football and basketball games wearing cowboy boots and only a big barrel. He was posing with fans after the game and shouting to the heavens about how proud he was of the Cowboy team, which is now 25-7. This team has more wins than just about any basketball team in UW history.
The game, itself, was a barn burner. UNLV had the game sewed up leading 56-52 near the end of the game. UW rallied and scored the last seven points, emerging as victor over their long-time nemesis. The big play was a three-point shot by Xavier Dusell with 29 seconds left, giving UW a 57-56 lead.
The Cowboys had lost 19 straight to UNLV in Vegas. Not since 2003 had they won. New coach Jeff Linder has found the right combination in the current team. Go Pokes!