Cowboys Suffer 56-48 Loss to No. 20 UNLV in MW Quarterfinals

March 9, 2012

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After trailing by as many as 22 points, the University of Wyoming men's basketball team staged a furious rally to draw within six points of No. 20 UNLV with one minute to go, but the Rebels hit free throws down the stretch for a 56-48 victory in the Mountain West Championship Quarterfinals on Thursday night in the Thomas & Mack Center.

The sixth-seeded Cowboys (20-11) trailed by 17 at halftime and let the third-seeded Rebels (26-7) extend the advantage to as much as 22 six minutes into the second half, before using a 19-6 rally to climb within seven points with six minutes to go. UW would cut the lead to six at 51-45 with 1:01 left, but that was as close as the Cowboys could get, as UNLV made four free throws over the next 30 seconds to seal the victory.

Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington led Wyoming with his fifth double-double of the season at 11 points and 10 rebounds, while redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez notched 11 points as well and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Senior center Adam Waddell tied a career high with four blocks to go with four rebounds and a steal.

The Cowboys shot 29 percent (17-of-58) from the field, including 28 percent (7-of-25) from deep, to 40 percent (20-of-50) and 28 percent (4-of-14) for UNLV. The Rebels outrebounded Wyoming 56-48 and earned a 9-6 advantage in assists. Both teams committed 14 turnovers.

It was a defensive battle to start the game, as neither team could find an offensive rhythm. The Rebels opened the scoring with a three, but exchanged baskets with the Cowboys through the first 10 minutes. UNLV found its stride on the offensive end to craft an 11-0 run and extend their lead to as many as 12 at 18-6. Back-to-back steals gave Wyoming some momentum and Waddell and senior guard Francisco Cruz hit free throws to cut the lead to nine at 18-9 with 6:03 left in the half.

The Rebels quickly pushed the lead back to double digits with another 8-0 spurt to go up 26-9, before Washington broke UW's drought with a layup at the 2:45 mark. UNLV hit the last basket of the half to go into the break up 28-11. Washington, Waddell and senior guard JayDee Luster each had four points in the first half, as UW's 11 points in the opening frame were the Cowboys' lowest of the season.

The Pokes hit just 12 percent (3-of-24) from the field and no three pointers (0-of-8) in the first half compared to 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field and three (4-of-10) for the Rebels. UNLV outrebounded the Cowboys 23-17 and earned a 6-0 advantage in assists.

UNLV continued that momentum into the second half with a 5-0 run to start the period and extend the lead to 22 at 33-11. Washington broke the stretch with a dunk and the squads exchanged baskets over the next two minutes until Cruz hit a trey to pull Wyoming back within 17 at 37-20 with 15:43 to go. The Rebels answered to extend the lead back over 20 points, though.

That would be UNLV's last basket for over 10 minutes, as the Cowboys made a furious rally. Washington started it with a three at the 12:56 mark to begin a 19-6 UW run. Martinez added two threes in the stretch, while Washington had two layups to go with his trey to battle the Cowboys back within seven at 46-39 with 6:32 to go.

The Rebels momentarily extended the lead back to 11, but Martinez nailed a three and Cruz followed with one of his own to cut the UNLV lead to six at 51-45 with 1:01 to go. That would be as close at the Cowboys could get, though, as the Rebels hit four free throws in the next 30 seconds to seal the victory.

Wyoming now waits for word on a possible postseason berth on Sunday.