The Wyoming Cowboys recorded a season-high 15 turnovers in a 72-69 road loss at Air Force on Saturday Afternoon inside Clune Arena in Colorado Springs. The Pokes led by as many as 14 points in the contest, as the Flacons added 16 points off turnovers. Wyoming falls to 7-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play with the Falcons moving to 4-7 overall and 2-5 in league play.
“The effort defensively in the second half really hurt us,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “In the first half we did a great job defending them, but it was a tale of two periods. We had some empty possession we can’t afford to have. We have had little mistakes that just keep adding up. It was a tough one, but we will be ready for Wednesday.”
Wyoming was led in scoring by freshman Marcus Williams with 15 points. He has scored in double-figures in every game this season. Junior Hunter Maldonado added 14 points for his 50th career game in double-figures, as it comes in his hometown. He and sophomore Kwane Marble II led the Pokes with seven rebounds. Freshman Xavier DuSell added 13 points for his fourth game in double-figures this season.
The Cowboys and Falcons each shot 53 percent from the field for the contest. Wyoming was 10-of-27 from behind the arc with Air Force going 8-of-20 for the night. Wyoming held a 33-24 lead on the glass for the game with both teams scoring 34 points in the paint.
“We have to keep learning and growing,” Linder said. “We need to put forth a little more effort and disaplane to become a good team. We have to sit down and guard our man and down the stretch that hurt us.”
The Pokes knocked down two of their first three triple attempts in the contest to build a 6-2 lead in the opening two and a half minutes. After Air Force made it a 6-5 game on a three pointer, freshman Xavier DuSell knocked down a three pointer for a 9-5 UW lead at the 14:50 mark of the opening stanza.
The Pokes would keep knocking down the long ball with DuSell adding his second to give Wyoming a 15-8 lead at the 12:23 mark of the first half. Wyoming was 5-of-8 to open the contest from behind the arc. Wyoming kept it up with junior Drake Jeffries and sophomore Kenny Foster adding back-to-back threes for a 25-19 lead with under eight minutes left in the half.
Wyoming held the Falcons scoreless for nearly four minutes and built the lead to 12 points with 5:42 remaining in the frame. The Pokes would then take the ball to the rim and make three-straight shots to build a 36-22 lead with just over a minute left in the half.
Air Force hit back-to-back threes to make for a 36-28 Wyoming advantage at the break. Wyoming shot 56 percent in the opening frame from the field and 53.8 percent from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
The Pokes went on a 6-0 run to open the second frame and built a 41-28 advantage. Jeffries added the Cowboy’s first three of the half for a 44-30 UW lead with 15:41 left in the game. But the Falcons responded with a 9-2 run to make it a 46-39 game for the Pokes, as AFA knocked down two threes during the charge.
Wyoming would go scoreless for over three minutes, as the Falcons came within one basket at 49-48 halfway through the half. Maldonado responded with back-to-back layups to build a 53-48 lead for the Pokes with 9:11 left in the game.
Air Force would battle back and cut the deficit to two points at 56-54 with 7:30 left on the heels of back-to-back buckets in the paint. But junior Hunter Thompson answered with two-straight buckets in the paint to build the lead back to six points two minutes later.
The Pokes would hold a lead as much as seven points with 4:35 left in the game, but the Falcons made it a one-point game with 2:30 left on a layup from Ameka Akaya and Chris Joyce hit a three-pointer with 1:52 left to give the Falcons a 67-65 lead.
The Falcons would control play from there, as Joyce added a step back jumper for a 69-65 lead with 11 seconds left. Williams added a three for a two-point game, but Air Force added a free throw and forced a late shot that failed to take the win.
The Falcons were led Joyce with 21 points going 4-of-5 from behind the arc. A.J. Walker added 15 points alongside Akaya.
Wyoming and Air Force will close out their season series on Monday in a 7 p.m. start on the Mountain West Network.