Pokes Drop 72-62 Contest to Lobos in MW Opener

Jan. 14, 2012

Laramie, Wyo.

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Senior guard Francisco Cruz scored 22 points, but the University of Wyoming men's basketball team lost a 72-62 game to hot-shooting New Mexico in the Mountain West opener for both squads. The Cowboys (14-3) had a season-high crowd of 6,955 rocking the Arena-Auditorium after a Luke Martinez three tied the contest at 44-44 in the second half, but the Lobos (15-2) asserted themselves with a 19-4 run and held on late for the victory.

UW and UNM went back and forth with six ties and five leads changes, until the big Lobo run midway through the second half put New Mexico in control. UW clawed back to within seven with less than two minutes to go, but UNM made its free throws to seal the win. The loss was Wyoming's first in the Double A this season (11-1) and snapped a three-game winning streak.

"We had some opportunities in the second half but weren't able to convert," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "JayDee [Luster] made an unselfish pass to Luke [Martinez] on a fast break but Luke missed a dunk. Leonard [Washington] made a strong move but then he missed a dunk, and Larry Nance had a steal and we had a man open down court, but we turned it over. When you miss opportunities like that and then the other team comes down and scores that is a big swing."

Cruz reached the 20-point mark for the second time in three games and also tied a career high with three steals, while redshirt junior Leonard Washington scored 15 and grabbed seven rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez scored 11 points for this fourth consecutive game in double figures and senior center Adam Waddell's four blocks tied a career high. UNM's Drew Gordon, who entered averaging over 12 points and 10 rebounds, was held by UW to eight points and five rebounds, as only two Lobos reached double figures.

"I thought our guys played hard and played with energy," Shyatt said. "Even when we were down 15, our guys fought back and cut the lead to seven. It wasn't that we didn't play hard, but I compliment New Mexico. They hit some big threes at critical times."

The Lobos shot well all day, connected on 52 percent (23-of-44) from the field and 57 percent (8-of-14) beyond the arc, to set season highs for a UW opponent in both categories. UW hit 42 percent (22-of-52) in the field and 92 percent (12-of-13) at the free throw line, but only 31 percent (6-of-19) beyond the arc. UNM outrebounded UW 29-22 and had an 11-7 advantage in assists, but committed 15 turnovers to 10 for Wyoming. UW's seven blocks were a season high.

A Cruz dunk to open the game got the AA crowd loud right away, and the Pokes followed inside early to Waddell and Washington. It was back and forth through the first five minutes with four ties, as freshman forward Larry Nance Jr. drew two quick fouls on Gordon, who sat the rest of the half. The Lobos were still able to etch out a five-point advantage at 22-17 over the next six minutes, but the Cowboys fought back with threes from Cruz and Martinez to retake a 23-22 lead with 4:27 left.

New Mexico continued to execute on the offensive end, though, and crafted a 10-2 run to go back up by seven and took a 34-30 lead into halftime. Cruz had 10 point in the first half for the Cowboys, while Washington added seven. UNM shot 54 percent (12-of-22) from the field in the first half and 50 percent (4-of-8) from deep to 40 percent (11-of-27) and 33 percent (3-of-9) for UW. The Cowboys forced UNM into seven turnovers, but were outrebounded 13-11.

A quick 5-0 spurt from Wyoming tied the contest at 37-37, but UNM once again went up by five through the first four minutes. Another 7-2 run from the Cowboys, capped by a Martinez trey, tied the contest at 44-44 with 14:37, but the Lobos dominated the next 11 minutes. UNM went ahead by 15 at 63-48 with a 19-4 run to take control of the contest. The Cowboys climbed back late to within seven with 1:26 left, but that was as close as UW would come. Cruz had 12 points in the second half, while Washington and Martinez both added eight. Wyoming shot 44 percent from the field in the half to 52 percent for UNM.

Wyoming continues conference play at Air Force on Wednesday. Tip is set for 6 p.m. in Clune Arena.