LARAMIE -- Wyoming's Achilles' heels became their biggest weapons.
The sudden turnaround defensively and shooting from beyond the arc spelled an end to the Cowboys' eight-game losing streak.
UW made nine 3-pointers and allowed just five Air Force players to score, securing an eighth-place finish in the Mountain West Conference with a 58-49 victory over the Falcons at the Arena-Auditorium on Tuesday night.
"It just feels real good for this team to get a win," said UW's lone senior, Ryan Dermody, who was honored before the last home game. "We've been struggling and it was our last home game as a team.
"I'm just really happy that I ended my career on a win."
Dermody was one of four UW players in double figures, making all four of his 3-pointers when the Cowboys took control.
Before then, it looked like the Pokes might be headed down a similar path that led to their longest losing streak in more than 30 years.
The Falcons stormed out of the gate, hitting 8 of their first 12 shots on their way to 20 points in the opening 10 minutes before UW picked up its defensive pressure.
"We made just a couple little adjustments," UW coach Heath Schroyer said. "They're hard to guard. They're unlike anyone else that we play, but I thought we did a pretty good job."
They couldn't have been much better from there on out, especially defensively.
Three 3-pointers by seldom-used freshman Daylen Harrison pulled the Cowboys right back in the game and they outscored Air Force 22-7 in the last seven minutes of the first half and first seven of the second.
"We did not expect the 3s to go down like that," UW junior Djibril Thiam said. "Daylen came in and stepped in with confidence, knocking down shots. Dermody heating up the second half, JayDee [Luster] making a huge shot, we'll take that any day."
Still, the Cowboys needed to hold off a Falcons team that was looking to end a seven-game losing streak of its own.
A 3-pointer by Evan Washington brought Air Force back within a point with less than three minutes left when the Pokes clamped down on defense.
Stiff defense by Thiam forced a Falcons airball and the Cowboys backed that up by forcing back-to-back turnovers, quickly rebuilding a seven-point lead and icing the game at the free throw line.
"I think it was a much-needed win and a really good win for us," Schroyer said. "I thought our guys really showed a lot of growth. They made a run to cut it down to one, we called a timeout, were able to execute and never relinquished the lead.
"The last couple weeks, we've gotten better defensively. ... Guys are just starting to figure it out a little bit."
And they're doing it just in time for the Mountain West Conference tournament, where they'll face Air Force again one week from today.
Contact sports reporter Eric Schmoldt at email@example.com. Check out his blog at tribtown.trib.com/ESchmoldt/blog
TUESDAY: Wyoming 58, Air Force 49.
RECORDS: Cowboys (10-19, 3-12 Mountain West Conference); Falcons (9-19, 1-14 MWC).
SLUMP BUSTED: The Pokes avoided a last-place finish in the conference standings and snapped an eight-game losing streak.
HE SAID IT: "It was a much-needed win." -- UW coach Heath Schroyer.
NEXT: Wyoming at UNLV, 2 p.m., Saturday, on VERSUS.