March 3, 2012
Las Vegas -
Guards Francisco Cruz and Luke Martinez scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, but the University of Wyoming men's basketball team lost a 74-63 game to No. 17 UNLV on Saturday night in the Thomas & Mack Center. The Pokes (20-10, 6-8) were within five points of the Rebels (25-7, 9-5) with six minutes to go, but allowed a season-high in points to end the Mountain West regular season with a loss.
The Cowboys begin postseason play as the sixth seed in the 2012 Conoco MW Basketball Championships and face third-seeded UNLV on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. MT on the same court.
Wyoming went into halftime down just four and hung tough with UNLV well into the second half, but with six minutes left the Rebels crafted a 7-0 run and held the Cowboys to eight points down the stretch to take control for the win. UNLV improved to 17-0 at home in 2011-12 and became just the third UW opponent to score more than 70 points this season.
Cruz went 6-of-9 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 from deep, and added four assists, while Martinez went 3-of-11 from the field and 8-of-9 at the free throw line. Senior center Adam Waddell contributed nine points and eight rebounds and freshman forward Larry Nance Jr. had eight points and seven rebounds.
Wyoming shot 44 percent (19-of-43) for the game to 48 percent (23-of-47) for UNLV, while both squads went 7-of-18 (38 percent) from beyond the arc. The Rebels earned a 29-26 rebounding advantage and a 20-11 lead in assists. UW committed its second-most turnovers of the season with 18.
Martinez got the Cowboys on the board first and Cruz followed with a three, but Wyoming trailed the majority of the first half. The Rebels responded by hitting their first three treys and used an early 8-0 run to go in front by as many as 11 at 19-8 through the first eight minutes. The squads exchanged baskets over the next four minutes, until Cruz hit another three and redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington added the next four points to pull UW within four at 26-22.
UNLV maintained their lead with a flurry of points by both teams in the final three minutes. Nance hit a layup and Martinez got a dunk off a steal to draw the Pokes within 33-32. The Rebels made a three for the last shot of the half, though, to go into halftime with a 36-32 advantage. Cruz had 10 points and two assists in the first half, while Waddell added seven points, five rebounds and drew three charges.
Wyoming hit 47 percent (10-of-21) from the field in the opening frame, including 40 percent (2-of-5) beyond the arc, compared to 48 percent (12-of-25) and 45 percent (5-of-11) for UNLV. The Rebels outrebounded the Pokes 14-13, but committed 11 turnovers to 10 for UW.
The Rebels opened the second half with a 4-0 spurt to extend their lead, but Cruz hit a three and the Pokes hung tough to stay within 43-40 through the first five minutes. The squads exchanged baskets over the next four minutes until UNLV hit back-to-back threes to go up by 10 at 57-47 with 10:53 left and extended the lead to as much as 11.
Back-to-back treys from Nance and Martinez shortened the Rebel lead to 60-55 with 6:05 to go, but UNLV responded with a 7-0 run to go back up by double digits and held the Pokes to eight points over the final six minutes to clinch the victory.
Wyoming will be the sixth seed at the 2012 Conoco MW Basketball Championships and will open tournament play against third-seeded UNLV on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. MT.