FRESNO, Calif. – University of Wyoming men’s basketball coach Jeff Linder knew coming into the season teams were going to do their best to exploit interior size advantages over the Cowboys. UW is not a particularly tall team, with the tallest player on the roster measuring in at 6-foot-10.
That weakness inside reared its ugly head Monday night in the form of Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson.
The 7-foot Robinson scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who used a late first-half scoring run to take a double-digit halftime lead before eventually running away from the Cowboys 81-61. Fresno State led for more than 28 minutes of the game.
Wyoming (7-2 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) was outrebounded 42-25 and was outscored in the paint 46-32. The Cowboys shot just 39% from the field in the game.
The loss snaps UW’s six-game winning streak.
“There’s good players in this league, there’s good players inside now,” Linder said. “You’re going to have to go down and guard a really good player, you’re going to have to go down on the other end and try to score against a really good player, especially against length and athleticism … sometimes you don’t realize (how hard conference play is) until it slaps you in the face, like ‘OK, this is what the Mountain West is about.’”
Fresno State started off slowly from the field Monday night but caught fire midway through the first, going on a 16-1 run over about 4:30 of game action to lead by as many as 13 points. Behind Robinson’s 15 points and the team’s hot shooting from deep, the Bulldogs took an 11-point lead into halftime.
UW shot just 33% from the field in the first, including 1 of 7 from behind the 3-point line. It wasn’t far off from the first game of the series on Saturday, where the Cowboys shot 36% from the field and trailed by two heading into the locker room.
UW’s leading scorer, freshman guard Marcus Williams, was just 1 of 9 from the field in the first half. Just two days removed from scoring 22 points on 7 of 8 shooting from behind the 3-point line, redshirt junior forward Hunter Thompson scored just two points Monday.
It wasn’t from a lack of good looks, either, despite Fresno State doing its best to take away UW’s 3-point shooting. It was just one of those nights where seemingly nothing went right, even at the basket. The Cowboys shot just 29.7% from deep in the game and hit just half of their overall layup attempts.
“We got a lot of layups, had a lot of wide-open free throws. We missed a lot of those,” Linder said. “As long as we’re getting quality shots, that’s what I’m looking for.
“It wasn’t from a lack of effort or trying, but just for whatever reason, the ball doesn’t decide to go in.”
Unlike the previous tilt, the Cowboys didn’t have enough answers coming out of the half, particularly on the defensive end.
The Bulldogs shot 57% from the field and scored 44 points in the second half, with 18 points coming from Robinson. While UW was far more efficient from the field over the game’s final 20 minutes, the Cowboys still fought bouts of inconsistency and scoring droughts. Fresno State finished the game on a 9-0 run.
Fresno State forward Christian Gray scored 15 of his 17 points in the second, and the Bulldogs made 11 of 13 second half free throws. Williams finished with 22 points to lead the Cowboys, with 17 coming in the second half. Sophomore Kwane Marble II and redshirt junior guard Hunter Maldonado also finished in double-digit scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Monday’s defeat is just the second loss of the year for the Cowboys and by far the largest margin of defeat, as their first loss came by just two points at the hands of Texas Southern. The road forward doesn’t get much easier, either, as Boise State comes to town at the start of next week. The Broncos are 8-1 overall and were one of the preseason favorites to win the MW.
While the loss at Fresno State was disappointing, Linder hopes to make it a learning experience for his young group. It isn’t like the team was going to finish the season with just one loss anyway, Linder joked.
How the team bounces back from adversity is going to go a long way in determining how far the Cowboys can go. Linder made a point to stack his recruiting class with players from winning programs to establish a winning culture in the locker room. Because of that, the coach doesn’t seem particularly worried going forward.
“It’s a long season, and you’re going to have bumps in the road … they’re going to grow from it. Now, we don’t want to learn from losses, but sometimes that’s when you learn the most,” Linder said. “We’re going to get better from it.”
FRESNO STATE 81, WYOMING 61
Wyoming: Williams 7-17 5-9 22, Thompson 1-4 0-0 2, Foster 1-3 2-3 4, Maldonado 4-11 3-3 11, Oden 1-7 2-2 4, Jeffries 2-6 0-0 6, Marble II 6-9 0-1 12, DuSell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-57 12-18 61
Fresno State: Gage 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 2-5 0-0 5, Ballard 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 12-16 8-11 33, Holland 0-4 0-0 0, Harding 3-6 0-0 7, Campbell 3-6 0-0 8, Gray 7-9 3-3 17, Stroud 4-9 2-2 11, Whitaker 0-0 0-0 0, Meah 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-56 13-16 81
Halftime: FSU 37, UW 26. 3-pointers: UW 5-17 (Williams 3-5, Jeffries 2-5, Foster 0-1, Maldonado 0-2, Oden 0-2, Thompson 0-2); FSU 6-18 (Campbell 2-3, Robinson 1-1, Stroud 1-1, Hill 1-4, Harding 1-4, Ballard 0-1, Holland 0-4). Rebounds: UW 25 (Williams 7); FSU 42 (Robinson 13). Assists: UW 6 (Williams 3); FSU 9 (Hill 3). Turnovers: UW 7 (Thompson 2, Maldonado 2); FSU 12 (Hill 3). Blocks: UW 0; FSU 7 (Robinson 2). Steals: UW 4 (Four with 1); FSU 5 (Robinson 2, Harding 2). Total fouls: UW 15; FSU 21.