Wyoming’s Brendan Wenzel shots against Fresno State on Feb. 6, 2022 in the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. (Photo: Wyoming Athletics)
The Wyoming Cowboys handed the Boise State Broncos an agonizing wake-up call last week.
“When you lose a game after not losing for two months, these guys aren’t used to it,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said after a 72-65 loss on Thursday in Laramie, Wyo., that ended his Broncos’ 14-game winning streak. “We haven’t felt that pain in a long time.”
Wyoming, which also beat Colorado State (84-78 in overtime) last Monday and Fresno State (61-59) on Sunday, has taken over the top spot in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings with a record of 19-3, 8-1.
“They’re one of the toughest teams in the country,” said Wyoming coach Jeff Linder of Boise State. “There’s a reason why they won 14 straight games.”
Wyoming, which lost at Boise State 65-62 on Jan. 25, has now won four games in a row by a combined 17 points. The loss at Wyoming was Boise’s first since an 86-82 overtime defeat at home to Saint Louis on Nov. 30. The Broncos’ last five victories in their winning streak were all by six points or less.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Rice said.
Much of the crowd of 7,063 in Laramie last Thursday stormed the court after the Cowboys’ victory.
“When you play Wyoming you always have physical battles down in the paint,” said Boise State’s Abu Kigab, who had 26 points against Wyoming. “They got the best of us. We’ve just got to get back in the lab and get better.”
Wyoming point guard Hunter Maldonado had 16 points and seven assists against Boise. Graham Ike had 33 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 12-of-23 shots and 9-of-15 free throws.
“What can you say about Graham Ike?” Linder said. “Just give the ball to him and get out of the way.”
Maldonado also had 35 points (12-of-19 from the floor) and seven assists in the overtime win over Colorado State last Monday and 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the victory over Fresno State on Sunday.
“He’s a terrific player,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said of Maldonado. “He’s a better passer than he is a scorer, in my opinion. You start bringing in all the help and he’s like a passing station. He’s kicking it out, finding open shooters.”
No. 2 Boise State (18-5, 9-1) rebounded from its loss to Wyoming with a 76-60 victory over No. 11 San Jose State two days later.
“We aren’t going to spend anytime pouting,” said Rice after the loss to Wyoming. “We’re going to flush it as quickly as we can.”
No. 3 Colorado State (17-3, 7-3) had a more difficult time forgetting its loss to Wyoming and nearly wasted a 20-point lead in its win over San Diego State on Friday.
“It’s a tough, tough loss,” said Medved after the Wyoming game. “It freaking stinks.”
The Rams, though, found a way to win a stressful 58-57 game against No. 6 San Diego State four days later. David Roddy had 23 points against Wyoming and 22 against San Diego State.
Colorado State, though, was up 47-27 against San Diego State with 10 minutes to go but saw the Aztecs go on a 30-11 run to close the game. A 3-pointer by Lamont Butler actually gave San Diego State a stunning 57-56 lead with under a minute to play before Roddy hit a jumper with nine seconds left to win it.
“It’s kind of the ‘man in the arena’ kind of thing,” Roddy said. “The credit goes to the guy who is in the arena doing it. It’s my job to put my team in the best position to win and I’m just glad I made the shot.”
Matt Bradley (27 points) nearly scored half of San Diego State’s points, connecting on four 3-pointers and 9-of-10 free throws.
“I’m disappointed like crazy we didn’t find a way to finish and win that game,” Aztecs’ coach Brian Dutcher said.
“I’m getting too old for this,” a relieved Medved said. “That was a furious comeback (by San Diego State). Obviously we didn’t handle the pressure well.”
John Tonje added 16 points for Colorado State. “That was huge,” Tonje said. “I’m still in shock.”
San Diego State made just 19-of-63 shots and 6-of-19 threes and scored more than half its points against Colorado State in the last 10 minutes of the game. The Aztecs, though, suffocated the Rams on defense in the final 10 minutes and nearly stole the game.
“They’re not going to let you play a pretty free-flowing game,” Medved said.
San Diego State (13-6, 5-3) did come back two days later to hold off No. 8 Nevada 65-63 as Bradley scored 26. Bradley ended up scoring 53 of the Aztecs’ 122 points against Wyoming and Nevada combined.
Nevada jumped out to an 18-5 lead six minutes into the game but was outscored 60-45 the rest of the way. The Wolf Pack also led 22-9 with 12:46 to go in the first half but saw the Aztecs go on a 19-2 run to take a 28-24 lead with four minutes to go before the half.
Nevada (9-12, 3-7) also lost to No. 7 UNLV (69-58) and No. 5 Fresno State (73-56) last week and has now lost five games in a row.
No. 4 Utah State (15-9, 6-5) now has a five-game winning streak after beating Air Force (73-46), San Jose State (78-62) and UNLV (90-75) last week.
Justin Bean had 67 points combined in the three games, including 32 points and 10 rebounds against UNLV.
The Aggies were 10-of-22 on threes against UNLV and an eye-opening 22-of-28 on shots inside the 3-point circle.
“The passing was tremendous,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said. “Our guys, anybody who was in the game, was looking for one another. That’s a tribute to them and their willingness to search for a great shot every possession.”
UNLV (13-10, 5-5) got 33 points from Bryce Hamilton in the loss to Utah State. Hamilton now has 30 or more points in four of his last six games.
“Hamilton is a special talent, a special player,” Utah State’s Odom said. “He gets 33 points and I thought our guys did a nice job on him defensively.”
“The guys that guarded Hamilton did as well as they could,” Bean said. “He was hitting tough shots.”
Hamilton has averaged 30 points a game over his last six games, a stretch that started after he scored just 12 against San Jose State on Jan. 17 on 4-of-16 shooting. Nevada has done the best job of defending Hamilton over lately, holding him to 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting last Tuesday.
“My comfort level comes from opportunity,” Hamilton said. “If I go out and miss a layup or a shot, I’m not worried or stressed about it, looking to see if a sub is coming in. I’m not stressing to be perfect.”
No. 5 Fresno State got 21 points from Anthony Holland in its win over Nevada on Tuesday and 25 from Isaiah Hill in its loss to Wyoming on Sunday. Hill, though, did miss two 3-pointers in the final 16 seconds against Wyoming. Center Orlando Robinson, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds, also missed a 3-pointer with 37 seconds to go against Wyoming.
Nevada, which hosts Colorado State on Tuesday at Lawlor Events Center, played its three games last week without point guard Grant Sherfield and center Warren Washington. Desmond Cambridge scored 48 points in the three losses to UNLV, Fresno State and San Diego State.
The Wolf Pack will also travel to Utah State on Friday.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Feb. 7:
1. WYOMING (19-3, 8-1). Last week: Wyoming 84, Colorado State 78 (OT) ... Wyoming 72, Boise State 65 ... Wyoming 61, Fresno State 59. This week: vs. Utah State (Tuesday), at San Jose State (Saturday).
2. BOISE STATE (18-5, 9-1). Last week: Wyoming 72, Boise State 65 ... Boise State 76, San Jose State 60. This week: vs. UNLV (Friday), vs. Colorado State (Sunday).
3. COLORADO STATE (17-3, 7-3). Last week: Wyoming 84, Colorado State 78 (OT) ... Colorado State 58, San Diego State 57. This week: at Nevada (Tuesday), vs. Fresno State (Friday), at Boise State (Sunday).
4. UTAH STATE (15-9, 6-5). Last week: Utah State 73, Air Force 46 ... Utah State 78, San Jose State 62 ... Utah State 90, UNLV 75. This week: at Wyoming (Tuesday), vs. Nevada (Friday).
5. FRESNO STATE (16-7, 6-4). Last week: Fresno State 73, San Jose State 43 ... Fresno State 73, Nevada 56 ... Wyoming 61, Fresno State 59. This week: at Colorado State (Friday).
6. SAN DIEGO STATE (13-6, 5-3). Last week: San Diego State 72, New Mexico 47 ... Colorado State 58, San Diego State 57 ... San Diego State 65, Nevada 63. This week: at San Jose State (Wednesday), vs. Air Force (Saturday).
7. UNLV (13-10, 5-5). Last week: UNLV 69, Nevada 58 ... Utah State 90, UNLV 75. This week: vs. Air Force (Tuesday), at Boise State (Friday).
8. NEVADA (9-12, 3-7). Last week: UNLV 69, Nevada 58 ... Fresno State 73, Nevada 56 ... San Diego State 65, Nevada 63. This week: vs. Colorado State (Tuesday), at Utah State (Friday).
9. NEW MEXICO (9-14, 2-8). Last week: San Diego State 72, New Mexico 47 ... New Mexico 91, Air Force 77. This week: vs. Northern New Mexico (Friday).
10. AIR FORCE (10-11, 3-7). Last week: Utah State 73, Air Force 46 ... New Mexico 91, Air Force 77. This week: at UNLV (Tuesday), at San Diego State (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (7-15, 0-10). Last week: Fresno State 73, San Jose State 43 ... Utah State 78, San Jose State 62 ... Boise State76, San Jose State 60. This week: vs. San Diego State (Wednesday), vs. Wyoming (Saturday).