Thanks to an offensive onslaught fueled by freshman Graham Ike, the eighth seeded Wyoming Cowboys beat the ninth seeded San Jose State Spartans 111-80 on Wednesday afternoon in the opening game of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
In what was a historically high-scoring game for the pokes, one Cowboy scorer stood out from the rest. Ike led all Cowboys in scoring, dropping 32 points, which set a new Mountain West Conference Tournament record for points scored by a freshman. Wyoming also set the record for points scored in regulation in a tournament game.
Playing in, arguably, his biggest game to this point in his career, Ike went 12-14 from the field, and 8-10 from the free throw line. Establishing himself as the physical scorer to compliment the perimeter play of guards, Hunter Maldonado and Marcus Williams, Ike find success playing near the rim.
Williams was able to shake off the rust that plagued him at the end of the regular season, and played like the player that earned the conference’s Freshman of the Year honors, putting up 15 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds in 33 minutes of play time.
Other Cowboy players contributing were, Xavier DuSell, who scored 19 points and was 5-7 from beyond the arch, and Hunter Maldonado added 17 points to the scoring barrage.
At certain times early in the game, it appeared as though the game was going to be an offensive slugfest, with each team exchanging scores, and little defensive play on either side. The game was a tightly fought contest until the Cowboys began to pull away with five minutes left in the first half. Wyoming would go on to score 10 unanswered points to begin the second half, and their lead began to seem insurmountable.
The 111 points scored by the Cowboys represent the first time this season that the team was able to eclipse the century mark this season, the 97 points scored in the season opening game, against Mississippi Valley State, was the previous high point total on the season for the Cowboys.
Wyoming now looks to prepare for a perennial contender, the first-seeded San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs are a different team than the Spartans, with more physical players it will be hard for Wyoming to play the same game as they did for San Jose State. It will be interesting to watch how this young team handles the task of competing against a tough, physical, opponent.
The Pokes have a difficult game ahead of them, but after the performance they put on against San Jose State, anything can happen.