Maldonado’s buzzer beater sinks Falcons
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- Cowboy guard Hunter Maldonado recorded a layup at the buzzer to lift the Cowboys to a 63-61 road win at Air Force on Friday afternoon in Clune Arena in Colorado Springs. It was his return to his hometown and his 100th-career start, as he led the team with 31 points to lift the Pokes to 16-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play.
“It is never easy on the road and Air Force played well and they are hard to guard,” UW head coach Jeff Linder said. “I thought we had a great stretch in the second half. We are going to enjoy this one. I thank all the Cowboy fans for showing up down here and proud of the team.”
The Pokes combined for 30 points off turnovers and second chance points in the victory. The Pokes dominated the glass on the afternoon holding a 35-26 advantage. Wyoming grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.
Maldonado added 31 points for his 17th career 20-plus scoring game of his career and eighth of the season. It was a season high, as he went 9-of-19 from the field. He played all 40 minutes with four assists and five rebounds. Graham Ike added 10 points and nine rebounds. Jeremiah Oden added nine points and eight rebounds.
The Falcons got off to a 5-0 start in the opening 40 seconds, but Brendan Wenzel halted the run with a three-pointer seconds later. The Pokes would add a pair of buckets from Oden and Ike to complete the 7-0 run to take a 7-5 lead with 17 minutes left in the half.
The Pokes shot 40 percent from the field and only hit two three balls on the afternoon. Air Force shot 54 percent from the field and hit five three on the game.
The Pokes would miss five-straight field goal attempts, as the Falcons would build a 14-10 advantage with 12:17 left in the first half. Maldonado hit a pair of free throws, as the Pokes went scoreless for over three minutes for a 14-12 game.
Air Force would push the lead to 19-12 with a quick 5-0 run at the 11-minute mark of the half. The Pokes went without a field goal for over seven minutes, as Air Force built a 22-13 lead with under nine minutes left in the half.
Oden was trouble on the glass in the first half and added an and-one play to make it a 22-18, Maldonado followed with a pair of free throws for a 22-20 Air Force lead with just over five minutes left in the half. He would tie the contest at the line a minute later for a 9-0 run for the Brown and Gold.
The Pokes would take a lead after Jeffries tied the contest with a slam and Maldonado added a layup for a 28-26 game at the 2:10 mark. Maldonado added another bucket as the half closed for a 33-30 lead for the Brown and Gold at the half.
A slow start offensively for both teams in the second frame, but Oden added a slam and a bucket from Ike for a 37-30 lead for the Pokes nearly three minutes into the frame.
Later in the frame both teams would go scoreless for nearly three minutes until Jeffries added a three pointer for a 42-34 lead for the Pokes with 13 minutes left. Oden would add another slam to make it a 10-point game at 48-38 with 10 minutes left.
The Pokes made it an 11-point game at 53-42 with a spinning layup from Maldonado with 7:40 remaining. But Air Force answered back with back-to-back buckets and a free throw to make it a six-point game a minute later.
Air Force cut the lead to five points with five minutes left, but Ike added an and-one play for a 58-50 lead with 4:58 remaining. Air Force would use an offensive board for a basket and a free throw for a four-point game at 59-55 with 2:11 left.
AJ Walker added a three-pointer to cut the Wyoming lead to one-point at 59-58 1:20 left. The Pokes added freebies from Maldonado to make it a 61-58 game with 33 seconds left. Walker added another three-pointer to tie the contest at 61-61 with nine seconds left.
Maldonado took the ball up the floor and threw it off the glass for the win and his second career 30 point game.
The Falcons were led by Walker with 18 points. He went 8-of-13 from the field.
Wyoming host No. 23 Colorado State in the Arena-Auditorium on Monday for the first Border War contest of the season. The game is set for a 6 p.m. start on FS1.