The nation’s top scoring duo was not going to be denied after a sluggish start in San Jose, Calif.
Graham Ike had 25 points and 18 rebounds and Hunter Maldonado added 23 points and five assists to lead the Wyoming to a 74-52 victory over San Jose State on Saturday night at the PCU Event Center.
The Cowboys (21-3, 10-1) moved back into a tie for first place in the Mountain West Standings with Boise State after the one-two punch of Ike and Maldonado knocked the last-place Spartans (7-17, 0-12) out.
“It makes me sleep a little easier at night,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said of having the dynamic duo. “Just knowing with those two guys, you’re going to get a paint touch if you guard them one on one, or if you decide to double, you’re going to give up 3s and you’re going to be put in rotations.
“To be able to have two guys like that is a real luxury.”
Ike, who sat out to rest a sore knee during the Cowboys’ 84-69 win over San Jose State on Jan. 18 in Laramie, made his third 3-pointer of the season to put an exclamation point on a 10-0 run that gave UW a 43-32 lead with 16:31 remaining.
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Drake Jeffries had a breakaway dunk off a steal and made two free throws on the next possession to extend the lead to 15 points.
Maldonado scored the final nine points for the Pokes, who outscored the Spartans 41-23 in the second half while limiting the home team to 7-for-29 (24.1%) shooting over the final 20 minutes.
“I knew for us to do what we did it was going to be on the defensive side of the floor,” Linder said after UW held San Jose State to 29% from the field for the game. “I just thought we did a really good job.”
Ike had 17 points and Maldonado added 14 points on a combined 12-for-17 shooting in the second half and UW was 15-for-25 (60%) from the field after the intermission.
The Pokes dominated the glass, out-rebounding San Jose State 45-25 with 11 second-chance points.
“We didn’t need to panic. Just challenged Graham, could he fight for some deeper position and just impose his will on the game,” Linder said. “Thankfully, he listened and just dominated the second half. Not just from an offensive standpoint scoring but rebounding.”
The Cowboys closed the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 33-29 lead into the break.
UW was 4-for-15 on 3s and shot 39.4% from the field through the first 20 minutes. San Jose State was 35.7% from the field but knocked down five of its 10 shots behind the arc.
“I thought the first half we didn’t do a very good job defending the 3-point line, gave up five of them,” Linder said. “And then at halftime did a good job of adjusting and kind of minimizing those attempts.”
A three-point play by Maldonado gave the Pokes an early 8-2 lead. His nine points at the intermission led all scorers.
Shon Robinson capped a 9-2 run with a 3 to give the Spartans a 16-12 lead midway through the first half.
Jeremiah Oden scored five consecutive points to give the Pokes a 26-25 lead before Myron Amey answered with the next four points.
Xavier DuSell splashed a 3 and Ike scored with two seconds left to give the visitors the four-point advantage at the break.
“Talking to our guys coming in here it was making sure they knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Linder said. “When people look at the fact that San Jose has not won a game in league, that’s when losing happens. San Jose State had our full attention.”
There’s a chance UW, which extended its winning streak to six games and improved to 8-2 in true road games this season, will be ranked in the Associated Press top 25 entering Tuesday’s game against New Mexico at the Pit.
Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn