Poke Defense Earns 64-53 Conference Win at Air Force

Jan. 18, 2012

Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Four Cowboys scored in double figures, but it was the defense that earned the University of Wyoming men's basketball team a 64-53 Mountain West win at Air Force on Wednesday night in Clune Arena. The Pokes (15-3, 1-1) held the Falcons (11-5, 1-1) to two free throws over the final 4:40 of the first half and seven points over the final 5:40 of the second half to claim the come-from-behind victory and snap a 16-game road losing streak in MW play.

The Cowboys trailed 46-42 with 5:46 left in the game, before a three from redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez sparked a 17-3 Wyoming run that put the Cowboys in control at 59-49 with 1:13 to go. Martinez followed with another jumper, redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington pushed in a layup and senior guard JayDee Luster hit a three for a quick spurt, but Washington's two steals on successive Falcon possessions really turned the tide. UW then made its next 11 free throws for the win.

"This was the most difficult game on the schedule up to this point," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "This was a grind it out tough game and our guys fought. I felt like our guys really earned this one because we had to win it on the defensive end."

Martinez scored 15 on the night, while senior guard Francisco Cruz had 15 as well. Washington added 13 points and eight rebounds, and senior center Adam Waddell scored 11. UW shot 50 percent (20-of-40) from the field, including 63 percent (12-of-19) in the second half, and 37 percent (6-of-16) from deep. Air Force connected on 48 percent (20-of-41) and 30 percent (4-of-13). The Falcons outrebounded Wyoming 26-23, but committed 16 turnovers to 11 for UW. The Cowboys earned an 11-5 advantage in steals.

As expected the game was a defensive battle, but both teams struggled shooting the ball for a low scoring first half. The Pokes and Falcons were tied three times through the first four minutes, before Wyoming earned a four-point advantage at 11-7 with a three from senior guard Arthur Buedo at the 11:12 mark. That would be the last UW field goal until a Waddell layup with 5:23 left to allow AFA to craft a 14-2 run for a 21-13 lead with just over four minutes left in the half.

The Cowboys got to the line to get going offensively down the stretch, while holding Air Force without a field goal the final 4:45 of the half. Free throws from Luster, Waddell and Washington started the spurt and a Martinez trey and Washington jumper sent the Cowboys to halftime down 23-22. Washington had six points and five rebounds in the first frame and Martinez added five points. UW shot 38 percent (8-of-21) from the field and 20 percent (2-of-10) from deep to 47 percent (8-of-17) and 28 percent (2-of-7) for the Falcons. Both teams had 12 rebounds and eight turnovers.

Air Force made two of its first three attempts of the second half, but missed its next four behind the UW defense. The Cowboys went to work on the inside behind Waddell and Washington. Waddell hit two free throws, Washington added a layup and Waddell notched a dunk for a quick 6-0 spurt that put UW in front 30-27 five minutes in. The two squads went back and forth over the next 10 minutes with neither team leading by more than four. AFA would etch out a lead on several occasions, before Martinez hit a three, Washington drove home a jam and Cruz nailed a trey also.

Martinez got the Cowboys going once again and the UW defense cranked up the pressure as well. Martinez nailed a three and a jumper, while Washington pushed in a layup and Luster hit a three of his own as a 10-0 Wyoming run put the Cowboys out front 52-46 with 2:30 left. Washington came up with steals on success AFA possessions, as the Cowboys hit 11 straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Cruz had 11 points in the second half and Martinez added 10, while the Cowboys shot 63 percent (12-of-19) from the field in the second stanza.

Wyoming welcomes border rival Colorado State to the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday at 4 p.m.