Defenseless: Cowboys Unable to Control Colorado State in Border War Match at Moby Gym

Tracy Ringolsby

Wyoming men's basketball team is hanging it's hat on being Cowboy Tough and playing defense.

Colorado State wasn't impressed.

The Rams had their way in a 72-61 victory over the Cowboys at Moby Gym on Saturday, in which the final score did not tell the whole story. the Cowboys had to rally to get that close.

Trialing 18-16 with 5:46 to play in the first half, the Cowboys trailed by 23 points with 13:04 to play. They were outscored 14-3 to finish out the first half, and 18-8 to open the second half.

"We didn't answer the bell, and you're disappointed in that because you want to pride yourself on defending," said head coach Allen Edwards. "You want to pride yourself on rebounding and taking care of the basketball."

And on Saturday?

Well, the Cowboys gave up 72 points, the fifth time this season they have allowed 72 or more. And here's the concern. They have given up 72 or more points in three of the four Moutnain West games they have played so far -- losing not only to CSU, but also Air Force (86-77) and New Mexico (79-65). They also saw the defense fail in an 83-63 loss to Oregon State, and a 74-53 loss to Northern Colorado.

Here's the kicker. The CSU game is the only one of the five that was on the road. 

"This game really comes down to emotion and just playing hard with it being the Border War," said Edwards. I thought the tone was set early giving up offensive rebounds."

Giving up offensive rebounds has been a sore spot with the Cowboys all season. They are averaging only 4.1 offensive boards a game. But that's not as much because they aren't physical on the offensive boards. It's more about a team that has a plan to get back and play defense so it has the tendency to head down court as soon as a shot is taken, not leaving any players to battle for offensive boards.

Here's a word of warning: Things aren't about to get any easier. The Cowboys' next three games are against the three teams that are unbeaten in Mountain West play.

They host a 13th-ranked San Diego State team that is 16-0 overall and 5-0 in the conference on Tuesday, and a UNLV team that is 10-5 overall and 3-0 in the conference on Saturday. Then comes a Jan. 14 visit to Nevada, which is 8-8 overall but has won its first three conference games.

"We still have a lot of games, but at some point, the dies does have to turn," said guard Hunter Maldanado, who accounted for 25 points and six rebounds, playing all but 13 seconds in the 40-minute game. "If I can hold everybody accountable more in practice and everyone else can can hold me more accountable, and hold each other more accountable, we are going to have good things happen from that."

There's that word "if." There's no if about the fact the Cowboys didn't seem to even work up the emotions that come with playing it's No. 1 rival. The Rams Hit 26 of 51 field goal attempts -- 21 of 28 from inside the three-point line compared to a Wyoming team that was 21-55 for overall, just 11 of 29 from inside the three.

CSU also outrebounded the Cowboys 42-26.

And the Cowboys are hanging their identity on their defense.

"We are not going to change it and say, `Let's go outscore people,'" said Edwards. "That's not what this team is capable of doing. Rathern than scrapping it and gong another direction, we still have to beat the point of being more grimy on the defensive end of the floor."

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