Cowboys fall short in OT against UNLV

Feb. 27—LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming and UNLV couldn't buy a bucket in the first half Tuesday night.

The Cowboys and UNLV combined for just 42 points through the first 20 minutes, with the Rebels taking a slim 23-19 lead going into the halftime break. That trend didn't continue in the second half, with the Cowboys outscoring UNLV 42-38 in the final frame to force another overtime thriller in the Arena-Auditorium.

The Cowboys couldn't close it in the extra period, falling 75-69 to drop to 13-15 overall and 6-9 in Mountain West play. The win pushed the Rebels to 17-10 and 10-5.

Tuesday's loss was the Cowboys sixth in their past seven games. It was also UW's third straight loss, including a 20-point blowout at home to Boise State on Saturday.

Despite the loss to the Rebels, UW forward Mason Walters liked the effort the team showed to erase a double-digit lead and force overtime.

"For us to see the effort we put out against Boise State, that's not acceptable and not who we want to be as a team," Walters said. "That was kind of the biggest thing coming into (Tuesday). We have to play harder, and we have to play better defense. That's all it really was.

"... We responded well. You don't really want moral victories. You'd rather take the win in the end. (It was a) tough one. We put ourselves (in a position) to win, we just didn't get it done."

It was a slow start offensively for both sides, with the Rebels building a slim 8-7 lead with 11 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first half. Neither team was able to get into a shooting rhythm as UNLV took its four-point lead into halftime with a 5-0 run to end the first period.

The Cowboys shot just 6-of-24 (25%) from the field and 3-of-11 (27%) from 3-point range in the first half. UW was also 4-of-10 from the free-throw line in the first period.

UNLV didn't fare much better, going into the break 8-of-27 (30%) from the field and 4-of-10 (40%) from deep. Rebels forward Kalib Boone led all scorers with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, while guard Brendan Wenzel led the Cowboys with five.

UNLV extended its lead to double digits early in the second half, but UW went on a 6-0 run to get back within three with 12:46 left to play. The Cowboys got back within three points on three separate occasions down the stretch, and Walters cut the Rebels' lead to 59-57 with an and-one layup with 45 seconds left in the game.

UNLV hit a pair of clutch buckets at the end of the shot clock on back-to-back possessions in the final minute, but UW answered with two free throws from guard Kael Combs with 5.7 seconds left. Cowboys guard Sam Griffin had a good look for a game-winning jump shot, but the attempt came up short to send the game to overtime tied 61-61.

The Rebels pulled away in the overtime period after going 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. UW went just 3-of-8 from the field in overtime to take the six-point loss.

"It's kind of tough just to be giving them free buckets down the stretch," Walters said. "They made their free throws. Credit to them."

Wenzel led the Cowboys with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including a 4-of-5 mark from deep. Griffin added 13 points, followed by Walters with 12. UW shot 21-of-57 (36.8%) from the field and 6-of-21 (28.6%) from 3-point range for the game.

The Rebels were led by Kalib Boone with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Dedan Thomas Jr. added 13, and Justin Webster finished with 11. UNLV finished the night 24-of-59 (40.7%) from the field and 8-of-21 (38.1%) from deep.

"At the end of the day, they made a couple more shots than we did," UW coach Jeff Linder said. "It's a tough pill to swallow for the guys, because they played really hard. I'm proud of all their efforts. That was a really, really good team effort."

Added Wenzel: "I think we're pretty close (to getting over the hump), it's just ups and downs every game. We have to just figure out a way to be consistent. We can't have one game where we just don't care on defense, and another where we'll go out and play some defense."

The Cowboys hit the road to take on Colorado State in the second installment of this year's Border War. The Rams will host UW at 2 p.m. Saturday in Fort Collins.

"We proved that we can really play with any team if we really bring it and play defense," Walters said. "We're a tough team to guard offensively, and defensively, when we're on, we're as good a team as anybody else.

"It definitely is something to build on going into the last three games of the season before the (MW) tournament."

UNLV 75, WYOMING 69, 0T

UNLV: Whaley 2-4 5-5 9, Ka. Boone 8-10 8-8 24, Thomas 5-17 1-2 13, Rodriguez 1-5 1-2 3, Ke. Boone 3-9 0-0 8, Cottrell 1-2 0-0 3, Webster 3-5 3-3 11, Hicks 0-6 0-0 0, Jones 0-0 1-2 1, Johnson 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 24-59 19-22 75.

Wyoming: Wenzel 5-8 6-6 20, Griffin 4-17 5-6 13, Kot 3-8 0-0 7, Walters 3-8 6-6 12, Powell 1-2 0-3 2, Manyawu 3-6 2-5 8, Combs 1-2 2-2 5, Foster 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 21-57 21-28 69.

3-pointers: UNLV 8-21 (Thomas 2-4, Rodriguez 0-1, Ke. Boone 2-7, Cottrell 1-2, Webster 2-2, Hicks 0-4, Johnson III 1-1; UW 6-21 (Wenzel 4-5, Griffin 0-6, Kot 1-4, Walters 0-3, Combs 1-2, Foster 0-1). Rebounds: UNLV 44 (Ka. Boone 12), UW 32 (Manyawu 10). Assists: UNLV 10 (Four with 2), UW 14 (Powell 4, Manyawu 4). Turnovers: UNLV 15 (Thomas 4), UW 10 (Three with 2). Blocked shots: UNLV 2 (Rodriguez, Cottrell), UW 4 (Three with 1). Steals: UNLV 6 (Ke. Boone 2), UW 9 (Manyawu 4).

Attendance: 3,283.

Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at ataylor@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.