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UW MEN’S BASKETBALL

Last-place Wyoming Cowboys look to get on track at Air Force on Tuesday

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Wyoming Men’s Basketball vs Air Force onFeb. 19, 2022Arena-AuditoriumLaramie, WyomingPhoto by Kyle Spradley

Hunter Maldonado hangs from the rim after dunking against Air Force in their game last season at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – Will Hunter Maldonado be able to participate in one last homecoming game?

Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder said Maldonado – who scored 31 points and hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer to stun Air Force 63-61 last season at the Academy – was having trouble breathing after Saturday’s loss to Boise State.

A UW spokesperson said the super senior from Colorado Springs was feeling better Sunday and is considered day-to-day by the medical staff.

The Cowboys (5-12 overall, 0-5 Mountain West) will try to end their seven-game losing streak against Air Force on Tuesday at Clune Arena (7 p.m., Altitude2/MW Network).

Beating the improved Falcons (11-7, 2-3 MW) was already challenging for UW last season with both Maldonado and Graham Ike in the lineup.

Linder has used 12 different starting lineups this season with eight players missing games due to injuries or illness.

“We’ve faced as much adversity as maybe any team in the country, honestly,” guard Xavier DuSell said. “We’re just trying our best to keep our heads high, continue to put in the work like we have been. The sun is going to rise one day and it’s all going to turn around.”

The Pokes welcomed back leading scorer Noah Reynolds but lost Maldonado in the final minutes of the 85-68 loss to Boise State at the Arena-Auditorium.

There is a chance Hunter Thompson could return from a bout with mononucleosis against Air Force or for the Border War against Colorado State this Saturday.

Linder said Jake Kyman (back spasms) could have played in a pinch against the Broncos. Brendan Wenzel (knee), Kenny Foster (back) and Ike (foot) remain out indefinitely.

“It’s hard for us to practice right now,” Linder said. “We don’t have enough guys.”

That could be a major problem for the Pokes as they try to defend Joe Scott’s Princeton-style offense. UW ranks last in the MW in field-goal percentage defense (45.5%) and points allowed (71.4 ppg).

Boise State had five players score in double figures and shot 48.5% from the field against the Cowboys.

“We’ve got to be more connected as a team on defense and finish possessions,” forward Jeremiah Oden said after the undermanned Pokes were outrebounded 42-33. “A lot of times we’ll guard and give up the shot we want but they’ll get the board. (Against Boise State) some shots went in with good defense played. We’re trying to take steps in that area.”

Reynolds, who was not allowed to practice while in concussion protocol, was 5-for-18 shooting after missing the previous two games. The sophomore guard still led the team with 13 points.

Maldonado had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists before being helped to the locker room with about three minutes left in regulation.

“If we can get some guys healthy and get the whole group out there to fight as one, a lot of these games that we played would have gone differently,” DuSell said. “And the games we’re going to play in the future will go differently. I’m not worried about it.”

UW leads the all-time series with Air Force, 82-41, but the teams have split the previous 10 meetings.

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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