Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
A bad twist of luck for the Cowboys this week.
With the 53-42 win over Wyoming the New Mexico Lobos locked up their fifth Mountain West regular season championship in the last six seasons. The loss was doubly damaging to the Pokes as Fresno State beat Colorado State. Both teams now sit at 4-11 in conference play but the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker due to their win over UNLV. That would mean Wyoming would play Nevada in the play in game on the opening day of the tournament. That has been a familiar spot for the Pokes and one they were hoping to avoid.
Still Wyoming would still have a shot to avoid that destination by defeating Colorado State on Wednesday in the regular season finale on Wednesday. Fresno State will travel to UNLV next Saturday.
Heading into this game you knew it would tough for Wyoming to pull off the upset in The Pit. The #14 ranked Lobos have proven to be the class of the incredibly tough Mountain West. With the victory their conference record improved to 12-2. The Cowboys started off the game at full strength but ended up losing Leonard Washington fairly quickly. Washington suffered a back injury and was limited to just 10 minutes.
Wyoming was able to play a slower paced offense and keep this game close for the first half. Eventually the Lobos pulled away in the second. The offense struggled overall but Riley Grabau had a career 14 points as he hit four three pointers. Derek Cooke saw a bump in minutes with Washington out and responded with 9 points and seven rebounds. Larry Nance Jr. only scored four points but did pull in 10 rebounds.
Shooting wise Wyoming really struggled. Derrious Gilmore was 2 of 13 from the field. Overall Wyoming shot just 28% on field goals. The Cowboys really didn't drive to the lane or attack the basket very often. They mostly just settled for jump shots and as a result they only ended up with seven free throw attempts. Wyoming committed 22 fouls to just 10 New Mexico.
The Lobos hit 21 of their 27 free throw attempts. The Wyoming defense was stout for the most part as the Lobos shot just 35% from the field. They just capitalized on their free throws. New Mexico was led by Alex Kirk's 15 points and nine rebounds. Craig Barstow added 13 points and nine rebounds himself.
Right now there hasn't been any word on the severity of the injury to Washington. His streak of double doubles was broken at four games. This was just his second game coming back from an ankle injury. Now we'll have to see how long it will take him to bounce back. The Pokes will be challenged when the Rams come to the AA on Wednesday. Without Washington they would struggle against Nevada in the play in game.