Cowboys start Paradise Jam with 78-71 win over Howard

Nov. 19—LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming men's basketball team started the Paradise Jam with a 78-71 quarterfinal win over Howard on Friday in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Cowboys (3-1) bounced back after a tough 76-72 loss to Southeastern Louisiana at home last weekend. UW and Howard fought back and forth to the tune of 17 lead changes, but the Cowboys were able to pull away late to hold on to a seven-point win.

Senior Hunter Maldonado led UW with a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field. Maldonado scored 19 points in the second half and was 8-for-10 from the free-throw line to go along with four rebounds and three steals.

"Maldo is a guy that I challenged to be the guy and the Maldo that people think is one of the best players in the country, and he hadn't been that through the first three games," UW coach Jeff Linder said. "For him to take the challenge and respond the way that he did, we need that. We need him to be one of those guys, especially with Graham (Ike) out."

The Cowboys had one of their best shooting performances of the season, finishing 29-for-47 (61.7%) from the field. UW was 7-of-13 (53.8%) from 3-point range, which was a season-low for shots fired from deep. The Cowboys made up for it with 42 points in the paint against the Bison.

"I'm proud of the effort," Linder said. "Coming off a tough loss to (Southeastern Louisiana), sometimes you need a spark. We haven't really played well the first three games, even though we were 2-1. For our guys, we just needed a little spark to get something going, and I thought in the second half, we showed a lot more collective grit and toughness."

The Cowboys shot the ball well in the first 20 minutes, but fell behind 38-32 going into the halftime break. UW battled back to reclaim the lead at 45-44 with 14:16 left to play.

Xavier DuSell — who played a minimal role in the Cowboys' first three games of the season — hit a clutch 3-pointer to put UW up 74-66 with 39.6 seconds remaining to help propel the team to its third win of the season. DuSell, who played more minutes against Howard than he had in UW's first three games combined, finished with six points, two assists and two rebounds.

Jake Kyman also played a big role coming off the bench, finishing with nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from the field.

"Jake and X, two guys that haven't played a lot of minutes, came in in the second half and did a tremendous job," Linder said. "Sometimes you think their weakness is defensively, but at the same time, they're both really smart and did a really good job."

The Cowboys struggled in the first half in the rebounding department, giving up seven offensive rebounds to the Bison, which led to 13 second-chance points. Despite playing a smaller lineup in the second half, UW was able to trim the rebound margin to 28-25 in Howard's favor for the entire game.

Behind Maldonado, Ethan Anderson finished with 11 points on 5-7 shooting, four rebounds and three assists. Max Agbonkpolo added nine points on 3-5 shooting coming off the bench.

UW will have a day off before returning to the court for the Paradise Jam semifinals Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys will play Drake at 3:45 p.m. in the Virgin Islands.

WYOMING 78, HOWARD 71

Howard: Settle 5-15 4-5 14, Harris 4-10 0-0 11, Hawkins 7-13 2-2 17, Williams 4-10 1-2 11, Odom 5-7 0-0 10, Dockery 2-4 3-3 8. Totals: 27-59 10-12.

Wyoming: Oden 2-3 0-0 4, Wenzel 2-2 1-2 7, Anderson 5-7 1-2 11, Maldonado 10-17 8-10 28, Reynolds 2-3 0-0 4, DuSell 2-6 0-0 6, Kyman 3-4 2-2 9, Agbonkpolo 3-5 1-2 9. Totals: 29-47 13-18.

Halftime: Howard 38-32. 3-pointers: Howard 7-20 (Settle 0-3, Harris 3-6, Hawkins 1-4, Williams 2-4, Dockery 1-3); UW 7-13 (Oden 0-1, Wenzel 2-2, Anderson 0-1, DuSell 2-5, Kyman 1-2, Agbonkpolo 2-2). Rebounds: Howard 28 (Settle 8); UW 25 (Maldonado 4, Oden 4, Anderson 4). Assists: Howard 8 (Hawkins 6), UW 9 (Anderson 3); Turnovers: Howard 12 (Hawkins 4), UW 11 (Anderson 3). Blocks: Howard 2 (Settle 1, Odom 1); UW 2 (Powell 1, DuSell 1). Steals: Howard 4 (Settle 2); UW 5 (Maldonado 3). Team fouls: Howard 17, UW 12. Fouled out: None.

Attendance: 1,524.

Alex Taylor covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at ataylor@wyosports.net or 269-364-3560. Follow him on Twitter at @alex_m_taylor22