Hunter Maldonado.jpg

Heading into a matchup of undefeated teams, there was one notable difference between the University of Wyoming and Grand Canyon.

GCU had defeated its first three opponents by an average of 20.7 points, beating each by at least 14. The Cowboys, meanwhile, won their first two games in blowout fashion before taking down Washington in overtime on the road last Friday.

UW’s experience in crunch time situations appeared to pay dividends Monday night at GCU. Trailing by one with less than 3 minutes remaining, the Pokes closed out the game on an 8-0 run to edge the Antelopes 68-61.

“There's no question (it gave us an advantage),” UW coach Jeff Linder said. “At no point during the Washington game when Washington made that run did we blink. We didn't show any bad body language. Our guys just knew what they needed to do, and that was focus on the next play.

“When you're on the road in a hostile environment, that's all you can do. Just focus on the next play, (and) focus on the things we do on a daily basis. You never rise to the occasion, you always fall back on your training.”

UW (4-0) dominated the first half, in large part due to another stifling defensive effort.

GCU (3-1) missed 15 of its first 18 shots from the field, shooting just 22.9% at the half and 29.7% for the game. The Pokes have held each of their first four opponents under 35%.

“Everybody contributed from a defensive standpoint,” Linder said. “They're one of the better offensive teams, and for us to hold another team to almost under 30% for the game, I'm not sure if there's anybody in the country better than us in terms of effective field goal percentage defense.”

The Cowboys led by as much as 13 early in the second half, but similar to Washington, the Antelopes climbed back into the contest – sending the nearly 7,000 fans in attendance into a frenzy.

There were six lead changes in the final 10:07, with GCU holding a 61-60 lead in the final 3 minutes. Senior guard Drake Jeffries knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining, however, and UW proceeded to close out the game on an 8-0 run.

“(It was) a hell of an effort by our guys,” Linder said. “I can't say enough about how we scratched and clawed and found a way to win in one of the toughest environments in college basketball ...

“As we told our guys, it's like going to the club. Our goal at the end of the day was to hopefully make the people go home and shut down the club. We did a great job of finding a way to finish that game.”

Senior guard Hunter Maldonado led the Cowboys with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He appeared to limp off the court with a left knee injury late in the first half, but he quickly returned and showed no signs of injury – scoring 15 points with three boards and four assists after halftime.

“I thought twice, but knowing Maldo, he was going to bounce back,” Linder said. “Thankfully he did, and just put forth a great effort in the second half. We knew coming in that we wanted to get him matched up against (Gabe) McGlothan and (Sean Miller-Moore) in those dribble-downs.

“In that second half, whether it was using that to get in the paint and score, or doubling off the nearest man, we had that shooter space and made them pay when they came to double. That's the beauty of having a guy like Maldo, who you can put in those situations.”

Wyoming returns to action Friday at the Arena-Auditorium, with tipoff against Hastings College set for 7 p.m.

WYOMING 68, GRAND CANYON 61

Wyoming: Oden 5-9 1-4 12, Ike 6-13 1-4 13, Jeffries 3-7 0-1 8, Maldonado 6-11 5-8 17, DuSell 2-6 2-2 7, Thompson 1-2 0-0 3, Wenzel 2-4 2-2 8, Dut 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-52 11-21 68.

Grand Canyon: Ouedraogo 0-3 2-4 2, McGlothan 3-8 8-10 17, Miller-Moore 4-12 3-4 11, McMillan 3-7 0-0 6, Blacksher Jr. 7-24 3-4 20, Zdor 1-1 0-0 2, Blackmon 0-4 0-0 0, Cherry 1-5 0-0 3, Stone 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-64 16-22 61.

Halftime: Wyoming 26-18.

3-pointers: UW 7-22 (Oden 1-4, Ike 0-1, Jeffries 2-6, Maldonado 0-1, DuSell 1-5, Thompson 1-2, Wenzel 2-3); GCU 7-24 (McGlothan 3-6, Miller-Moore 0-1, McMillian 0-2, Blacksher Jr. 3-9, Blackmon 0-3, Cherry 1-3). Rebounds: UW 33 (Maldonado 7); GCU 51 (McGlothan 12). Assists: UW 12 (Maldonado 7); GCU 8 (McMillian 3, Blacksher Jr. 3). Turnovers: UW 9 (Ike 3); GCU 9 (McGlothan 3). Steals: UW 3 (Three with 1); GCU 5 (McGlothan 3). Blocks: UW 3 (Three with 1); GCU 3 (Three with 1). Team fouls: UW 19, GCU 21. Fouled out: GCU 1 (Zdor).

Attendance: 6,872.

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