It certainly wasn’t a conventional performance by any means, but UW sophomore forward Hunter Thompson appeared to finally get himself out of his slump.
Thompson scored a game-high 22 points against Louisiana Thursday night — 14 in the first half and another seven in overtime — to lead the Cowboys past the Ragin’ Cajuns 69-61 and close out a four-game homestand on a high note.
After losing the first two games of the homestand to Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton, the Cowboys (3-3 overall) dominated Detroit Mercy on Tuesday and won a tight one against Louisiana to get back to .500.
UW head coach Allen Edwards improved to 8-2 in overtime games with Thursday’s victory.
“To come out .500 … that’s a solid place to be,” Edwards said.
Thompson entered Thursday’s matchup shooting just 18.2% from 3-point range but hit 4 of 9 against Louisiana, including a huge shot from the corner late in overtime to extend the Cowboys’ lead to six. He was 7 of 13 overall from the field.
“My teammates and coaches keep telling me to shoot the ball … I’m not going to shy away from shooting,” Thompson said. “(Tonight) was definitely a ride.”
It was a strange game all around for the Pokes, who came out scorching from 3-point range but saw the basket shrink as the game progressed. Wyoming, who came in averaging just five made 3s a game, hit six in the first half, with three of those coming from Thompson. In the second half, however, UW went 0 for 12 from behind the line.
UW led by as many as seven points in the second half but were unable to hold off a late rally from Louisiana (3-2). Guard Cedric Russell hit a jumper with 24 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 54 apiece.
With 10 seconds left to play, redshirt sophomore guard Hunter Maldonado attempted to split a double-team on a drive to the rim. The ball was poked out, however, and the buzzer sounded for overtime.
“I tried to split it, he got his hand on the ball … after that he kind of tipped it away,” Maldonado, who finished with 11 points, said. “I think I went with four or five seconds left, so I knew they weren’t going to get a shot off.”
Wyoming outscored Louisiana 15-7 in overtime, with 13 of those points coming from Thompson and Maldonado. Maldonado was 9 of 14 from the free-throw line in the game, including 6 of 8 in overtime.
Senior guard A.J. Banks and sophomore forward T.J. Taylor each scored 12 points in the win. Senior guard Jake Hendricks, who struggled from the field, led the team with 11 rebounds.
“Jake stays on the floor for us because of the threat,” Edwards said. “And when he’s able to do other things like that it, makes him even more valuable for us.”
Louisiana, which was averaging better than 79.5 points per game, was held to just 38.6% from the field and went without a field goal the final 2:23 of overtime. Star forward Jalen Johnson, who averaged better than 20 points per game, was held to eight points on 3 for 6 from the field.
“(Defensive) confidence comes with preparation,” Maldonado said. “We hang our hat (on that) out there.”
Wyoming heads to Las Vegas next to play Colorado Sunday and either TCU or Clemson Tuesday. Winning the last two games in different ways was pivotal, according to Maldonado. Against Detroit Mercy, the offense exploded for the first time all season. Against the Ragin’ Cajuns, it was once again defense that led the way for the Cowboys.
“The last game, to see offense, and this one to see defense win games (was huge),” Maldonado said. “It’s a win … (we’re) definitely going to grow out of this.”