Nov. 15, 2011
Senior guard Francisco Cruz posted a career-high 30 points to propel the University of Wyoming men's basketball to a 75-56 win over Northern Colorado on Tuesday night in front of more than 4,360 fans at the Arena-Auditorium. The game was a defensive battle through the first 10 minutes, before the Cowboys steadily building a double-digit lead that they maintained the majority of the second half to move to 2-0 for the first time since 2008-09.
"Watching a group that gets excited about guarding and playing defense really excites me," Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said. "It is so important in those seven or eight games in a season when you don't shoot well. Defense will give you a chance to win those kind of games."
Known for his outside prowess, Cruz used his dribble to pressure the Bear (0-2) defense and get to the free-throw line where he went 16-of-20. His 16 made free throws were the fourth most in Arena-Auditorium history and his 20 attempts were third most in the building's 30-year history. Cruz went 6-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from deep to go with five rebounds and two steals.
"Paco (Cruz) is a team guy," Shyatt said. "He's pretty humble. He does a lot more than score, and he provides us a calming presence on the court. He stayed this summer to work out with Wes Long, our strength coach. He lost a lot of weight, and I believe that has really helped his stamina."
Senior center Adam Waddell finished two points shy of his career-high with 16 points and collected three rebounds and two blocks, while redshirt junior Luke Martinez added 11 points and four rebounds. Senior forward Rob Watsabaugh also collected five rebounds.
As a team, the Cowboys went 46 percent (20-of-43) from the field while knocking down six treys, and held the Bears to 37 percent (15-of-40). UW was outrebounded 30-28, but earned an 11-4 advantage in assists and 8-4 in steals.
Wyoming fell behind 7-0 in the first three minutes of the defensive battle, but responded with a 9-0 run thanks in part to threes from Cruz and Martinez to take its first lead of the game. The two squads exchanged baskets through until the midpoint of the half, when the Cowboys slowly built an eight-point advantage at 20-12 with six trips to the free-throw line. A Martinez dunk extended the advantage to double digits and back-to-back treys from Martinez and Cruz put the advantage at 32-14 headed into halftime.
Wyoming shot 36 percent (8-of-22) from the field and 30 percent (4-of-13) behind the arc in the first half, compared to 26 percent (5-of-19) and 14 percent (1-of-7) for UNC. The Bears outrebounded the Cowboys 19-10, but committed six more personal fouls (16-10) and seven more turnovers (14-7) in the half than UW.
Cruz had 16 points in the first half, going 3-of-5 from the field, 2-of-3 from the deep and 8-of-10 from the line. Martinez added eight points and four rebounds.
The Bears looked to mount a comeback in the second half, and cut the lead to 13 at 35-22, but that was as close as they would get in the second half. A Waddell jam, Cruz layup and Arthur Bouedo three quickly pushed the lead back over the 20-point mark. UNC keep hanging around, though, and once again drew within 15 at the 13-minute and eight-minute marks. Both times the Cowboys would easily push the lead to over 20 again to cruise home for the victory.
Cruz and Waddell both scored 14 points in the second half, while Bouedo added five.
UW hits the road for this first time this season with a trip to Wisconsin to face Green Bay at 6 p.m. MT on Saturday.