The Wyoming Cowboys fended off No. 23 Nevada by a tally of 104-103 on Wednesday evening in Arena-Auditorium for the Pokes’ first win against a ranked opponent since downing No. 25 Boise State in the MW Tournament in 2015. Junior guard Justin James scored a career-high 33 points, as he celebrated his 21st birthday with the win.
“Give credit to Nevada and Coach Muss (Eric Musselman),” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “They’re a heck of a team. We knew we had to come out and give them the best punch we could to come away with the win. Our guys hung in there and sustained their level of play. I commended our guys afterward, because I think we got down four points at one point in one of the overtimes. Obviously, H.D.’s (Hayden Dalton) three-point shot was big down the stretch, and Cody’s (Kelley) pass to Al (Herndon) down low for a bucket was big. Free throws late were also big for us. It was another one of those group efforts that made it possible for us to come away with the win.”
Wednesday’s game also marked the first home win against a ranked opponent since downing No. 5 San Diego State on Feb. 11, 2014. The Pokes have won five of their last six home games against ranked foes dating back to 2012. Wyoming moves to 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference with the Wolf Pack falling to 18-4 and 7-1 in the league.
“The crowd definitely helped us tonight,” Edwards said. “I’m always bragging about our atmosphere here for home games. When the student section shows up the way they showed up tonight with all of our regulars, it is special. Down the stretch when Nevada missed some free throws, I thought our crowd got really, really loud and had an affect on Nevada and gave our guys energy. I am excited our fans were here to experience this tonight. I know it was a late game — it’s already after midnight. We thank them all for coming out.”
Wyoming is 4-0 this season in overtime, as they certainly have garnered the nickname the Heart Attack Kids. Wyoming’s 104 points were the most for the Cowboys since pouring in 123 points against Adams State on Jan. 2, 2010.
James led all scorers with a career-high 33 points. He drained a career-high 14 field goals on 22 attempts for his third 30-plus scoring game of the season. He added in 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year. Senior forward Hayden Dalton poured in 25 points, including a perfect 8-of-8 at the free throw line. It was the first game with two Pokes scoring 25-plus points since Feb. 15, 1996. Senior forward Alan Herndon matched James’ 10 rebounds and tacked on eight points. Freshman Hunter Maldonado added 13 points for back-to-back double digit scoring games for the first time in his young career.
The Pokes shot 48 percent from the field on the night including 70 percent in overtime. Wyoming held Nevada to 43 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming dominated the glass with 46 rebounds and holding Nevada to 37. The Wolf Pack went 30-of-38 from the line with the Pokes hitting a season-high 34 freebies. Nevada was 25-of-27 from the line in regulation.
The Pokes raced out to an early 10-0 lead on the Wolf Pack in the first three minutes of the first half. UW used back-to-back threes from James and Maldonado and went to the paint with points from Herndon and James.
The Wolf Pack went on a 14-4 run to tie the contest at 14-14. The Martin twins led the comeback combing for 12 points in the opening seven minutes. Nevada enjoyed a brief two-point lead until six straight points from senior guard Louis Adams gave UW a 20-16 lead with 11:53 left in the half.
The two teams exchanged the lead over the next six minutes until Jordan Caroline scored four-straight points to give Nevada a 33-31 lead, as the Pokes went scoreless for nearly four minutes until redshirt-sophomore Brodricks Jones hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 33-33 with 2:20 left in the frame.
James closed out the half on a 5-0 run himself with a steal and thunderous fast-break slam that brought the Cowboy student section into a frenzy. He followed that with a deep three pointer to give UW a 38-35 halftime lead.
The Pokes opened the second half on a 6-0 run to take a 44-35 lead on the Wolf Pack. Sophomore guard Cody Kelley opened the half with a triple, with Herndon adding a freebie and Dalton with a layup in the opening minutes of the half.
The Cowboys went without a field goal for nearly six minutes that allowed the Wolf Pack to come within one at 51-50 with 12:49 left in the half. Nevada would take the lead at 55-54 on a pair of free throws from Hollis Cook with 11:10 left in the second frame. To that point in the contest the Wolf Pack were a perfect 16-of-16 from the free throw line.
The Pokes went on a 9-0 run after that to build a 63-55 lead with 9:08 left in the contest. The run was highlighted by five free throws including a three-point play from James, as he went over 20 points in the contest.
The Wolf Pack battled to tie the contest at 72-72 on a jumper in the paint from Caroline with four minutes left in the contest. The Pokes went 1-of-8 from the field late in the half, but James tied the game with a layup with 21 seconds left making it a 74-74 game. Both teams had a shot late, but failed to convert sending the game into overtime.
The two teams exchanged blows to open the first overtime period, but a three point play by Caleb Martin off a Cowboy turnover gave the Wolf Pack an 84-81 lead with 2:14 left. The Pokes battled back in the final minute with four points from Adams to give UW an 89-88 lead with 21 seconds left. Caroline tied the game with a free throw and each team once again got a chance to take the game, but the same result as regulation led to a second extra frame.
Another back-and-forth affair was on display in the second overtime, but the Pokes built a four-point lead on a Dalton triple from the corner for a 98-94 lead with1:31 remaining. He would later give UW a six-point advantage on a pair of free throws, as the Pokes hit the century mark for the first time this season.
Free throws from redshirt-junior guard Nyaires Redding and Adams pushed the lead to 104-100. Nevada sank a late triple, but time expired to give the Pokes to 104-103 win.
Caroline led the Wolf Pack with 29 points on 9-of-22 shooting and 9-of-11 at the charity stripe. He also led Nevada with nine rebounds. Cody Martin added 27 off the bench, sinking 8-of-16 shots, and dished out a game-high six assists.
The Cowboys return to action on Saturday heading to San Jose State to take on the Spartans at 3 p.m. MT on the Mountain West Network.