COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., -- While the defensive game plan appeared troubling, Jeff Linder's offensive scheme was obvious from the tip -- get the ball inside.

Mason Walters netted the Cowboys' first five points of the game Tuesday night inside Clune Arena, hammering away down low on a much-smaller Air Force frontcourt. He bullied his way into the post. He backed guys down. He spun, juked and muscled his way to the hole.

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"We kept it really simple," Wyoming's fourth-year head coach said after the 83-72 victory, the team's first true road win of the season.

Walters capped his night with 22 points, a new Division-I high for the reigning NAIA Player of the Year. He was 8-of-12 from the field. He drilled six shots from the free-throw line on seven attempts.

The Jamestown, N.D., product also snagged three offensive boards and dished out three assists, including a beauty through the lane late in the second half that culminated in a thunderous dunk courtesy of Cam Manyawu.

"I was just getting the ball inside and being confident," Walters said. "I feel comfortable in my abilities scoring inside. So, just having them in trust in me and I was putting the ball in the basket."

That's not all.

Walters' presence in the paint drew a crowd. That means open looks were plenty for this sharp-shooting squad, led by Brendan Wenzel, who put a bow on a career night that included six triples and 25 points. Fellow guard Akuel Kot also poured in 20. Twelve of those came via the three-pointer.

"It's huge," Wenzel said of Walters' occupancy in the rectangle. "... I've said it before, but it's kind of like (Hunter Maldonado) and Graham (Ike) around in the paint. They track so many bodies that it gives us open shots."

The Cowboys hit them, too, to the tune of 56% (28-of-50) from the field and 63% (12-of-19) from beyond the arc.

 

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If there was one blemish on an otherwise productive night for Walters, it was in the turnover category. The visitors handed out nine freebies. Six of those belonged to the 6-foot-9 forward.

Linder isn't too concerned about the loose change.

"A team like that, even though they're not big, they're just really physical and they kind of get underneath you. They're always poking at the ball," he said. "I've seen a lot of post players come in here and really struggle. He did a good job of kind of settling down and we got some open looks."

Since returning from a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand that cost him the first 10 games of the season, Walters has averaged better than 13 points an outing. Over the last four games -- wins over Nevada, Colorado State and Air Force, coupled with a loss at San Diego State -- he has posted 16 a night to go along with 26 total rebounds.

There's a new No. 33 on the high plains.

Wyoming has now won four of its last five games. If the Mountain West Tournament started today, this squad would be a fifth seed ahead of CSU, Nevada and Saturday's opponent UNLV.

There's a long way to go, but Walters admitted after this one, momentum is firmly in the Cowboys' corner.

"All of us are starting to believe," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing, the confidence, belief. We just kind of have like a swagger, so to speak, about us now. I think that if we keep playing with that mindset and that kind of confidence, we'll be a tough team to beat."

The Cowboys (12-9, 5-3) and Runnin' Rebels (11-9, 4-4) are slated to tipoff Saturday at 6 p.m. Mountain Time inside the Thomas and Mack Center. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

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