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UW MEN’S BASKETBALL

Undefeated Wyoming Cowboys set to host Denver Pioneers at the Arena-Auditorium

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LARAMIE – The Pokes have been heckled in Seattle, screamed at in Phoenix and badgered in Fullerton.

Wyoming, which muted all three crowds with victories, returns to the friendly confines to play Denver on Thursday at the Arena-Auditorium (7 p.m., streaming on the Mountain West Network).

Entering Wednesday’s games, the Cowboys (6-0) were one of only 18 unbeaten teams and their three true road wins were the most among the exclusive club. Weber State (two) and USC (two) were the only other teams on the list with multiple true road wins.

Hunter Maldonado scored 21 points, Graham Ike had 17 points and nine rebounds and Xavier DuSell (16 points) and Drake Jeffries (14 points) were a combined 8-for-14 on 3-pointers during UW’s 79-66 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Monday night.

The Pokes, picked to finish tied for eighth in the preseason Mountain West poll, already had eye-opening wins at Washington (77-72, overtime) and Grand Canyon (68-61).

UW head coach Jeff Linder said the home-court advantage at GCU Arena, where all 7,000 seats were filled and the music was pumping like a Las Vegas club, was the best he has experienced, with the possible exceptions of San Diego State’s Viejas Arena and Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center.

After the Cowboys ended the game with an 8-0 run, Linder issued a challenge to the UW fan base to turn the Arena-Auditorium into the Dome of Doom again.

“The Double-A at one point was one of the toughest places to play in college basketball and it needs to be,” Linder said. “This team, if they come out, it’s going to help us take it to another level.

“We need that support, we need the students to come out, and we need the fans to come from all over because this team is worth watching.”

UW is averaging 83.7 points (23rd in the NCAA) and giving up 58.3 points (28th) per game this season. The team’s scoring margin (plus-25.4) and field-goal percentage defense (35.2%) rank sixth nationally.

In the last home game, a 108-59 romp over overmatched Hastings College, Drake Jeffries set the MWC single-game record with 11 made 3-pointers and the Cowboys tied the NCAA single-game record with 28 made 3s.

A crowd of 3,291 fans showed up to witness what turned out to be a historic shooting night on the High Plains.

“I was really excited about the turnout,” said Linder, whose first season at UW included limited capacity at the Arena-Auditorium due to the pandemic. “It makes such a huge difference when you have people in the stands. Just to have the crowd that we did have against Hastings, hopefully we can continue to build on that.

“This is a team worth coming out and watching. Not just because they are good players. They do things the right way, they’ve got a good spirit to them, they represent the University of Wyoming and they represent the state of Wyoming.”

The Pioneers (3-5) are 0-3 on the road but missed a shot at the buzzer with a chance to beat Air Force (lost 66-65) and are coming off a 77-68 overtime loss at Utah Valley.

KJ Hunt is averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists for first-year DU head coach Jeff Wulbrun, a former Stanford assistant.

UW leads the all-time series 106-52.

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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