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UW MEN’S BASKETBALL

Wyoming Cowboys continue road trip at Nevada

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Maldonado lifts Wyoming past South Florida 77-57

Wyoming's Xavier Dusell defends South Florida's Javon Greene in their game on Dec. 25, 2021, in Honolulu. Dusell and the Cowboys play at Nevada on Monday night.

LARAMIE — The Cowboys didn’t have much practice time to prepare for their Mountain West opener, but they were ready for the atmosphere in Logan, Utah.

Wyoming improved to 4-1 in true road games after beating Utah State 71-69 to silence the Saturday night crowd of 8,109 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

The Cowboys (12-2, 1-0 MW) calmly responded to every counterpunch made by the Aggies (10-7, 1-3 MW).

“That’s why you play the non-conference schedule that we played,” head coach Jeff Linder said. “Going on the road and having to play in hostile environments, that’s what we saw in going to play Grand Canyon, Washington, Arizona.”

UW’s road swing continues against Nevada on Monday at the Lawlor Events Center (6 p.m., FS1).

The Wolf Pack (8-6, 2-1) has won seven of its last nine games after enduring a four-game losing streak early in the season.

Grant Sherfield scored 21 points and Warren Washington added 12 points and nine rebounds to lead Steve Alford’s team to a 75-68 victory over Air Force on Saturday at Clune Arena.

The Cowboys, who only had one full-team practice before the Utah State game, traveled to Reno, Nevada, on Sunday and were planning to practice that evening to prepare for the rescheduled game against Nevada.

“Our guys are pretty familiar with what we do and we know how talented they are,” Linder said. “The biggest thing for us right now is to get some rest.”

Only eight players saw action against Utah State as UW returned from a two-week COVID-19 pause for its first game since a 77-57 victory over South Florida on Dec. 25 in Honolulu.

Hunter Maldonado had 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. Graham Ike, who only played 27 minutes due to foul trouble, had 23 points and scored the game-winning basket with three ticks left on the clock.

Jake Jeffries (14 points, 4-for-7 on 3-pointers) and Jeremiah Oden (11 points two blocks) also played well.

Xavier DuSell finished with just two points in 34 minutes and was injured trying to defend Utah State’s desperation 3 at the buzzer. Linder did not know the severity of the sophomore guard’s injury Saturday night.

Backup guards Kenny Foster and Noah Reynolds were unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.

“I was really worried,” Linder said. “We hadn’t played in 21 days and leading up to Hawaii we had finals week and we hadn’t played in 10 days … so we played four games in a matter of pretty much 40 days.”

Maldonado and Ike were a combined 15-of-24 from the field as the Cowboys shot 52.2% while limiting the Aggies to 40.6% from the field, including 6-for-26 on 3s.

“Sometimes what gets lost is how well this team is defending,” Linder said. “We held one of the best offensive teams in the country to 40 percent. That’s how you win games on the road. It is not just your ability to score, but can you get stops.”

UW is currently third in the MW in scoring (77.1 ppg) and fifth in scoring defense (63.5 ppg). Nevada is averaging 76.9 points (fifth) and giving up 75.4 points (10th).

The Cowboys were No. 28 in the NET ranking used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee entering Sunday’s games.

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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