DENVER, Colo. – The Denver Pioneers shot 56 percent from the field and held the Pokes to only 34 percent in the 88-78 victory over the Cowboys on Wednesday evening in Magness Arena in Denver, Colo. The Pokes struggled to defend the glass in the contest being out rebounded by the Pioneers 47-27. Wyoming falls to 5-2 on the season with Denver moving to 3-4 on the year.
“What I addressed with the team is the 88 points we allowed,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “You’ll have nights where you shoot it the way we shot it tonight. At the end of the day, our golden number in terms of defending is about 65 points. It’s about giving ourselves an opportunity. If the defense was the way it was supposed to be, offensively we still would’ve had a chance to win the game.”
The Pokes trailed by 15 points to open the game and cut the deficit to five points in the second half but could not close the deficit. Wyoming hit 10 threes in the game for their 271st game with a made three pointer and third game this season with double-digit three-point field goals.
“We have to continue to play Cowboy basketball and I thought we diverted from that tonight,” Edwards added.
Friday marked the first game this season with five Cowboys in double figures. Junior guard Justin James led the Cowboys in scoring with 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting. Senior guard Louis Adams came off the bench to add 14 of Wyoming’s 23 points from the second unit. Senior forward Hayden Dalton notched 12 points, his sixth game this season with double-digit points, and added a team-best eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Senior forward Alan Herndon put in 11 points and recorded two blocks, his fifth game this season with multiple blocks. Senior guard Alex Aka Gorski scored 12 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe.
The Pioneers shot 28-of-50 (.560) from the field, the best shooting percentage of any Wyoming opponent this season. Wyoming put up a season-high 68 field goal attempts and 37 three-point field goals attempts, but shot 33.8 percent for the game, its second-lowest shooting performance on the year. The Cowboys also grabbed a season-high 10 steals. Wyoming’s minus-20 rebounding margin was a season-low.
After the Pokes’ James opened the game with a three-pointer, the Pioneers went on a 15-0 to make it a 15-3 game in the opening four minutes of the contest. After Adams stopped the run, DU moved the contest to 19-5 on 8-of-11 shooting in the opening five minutes.
The Pokes made it a 10-point game with 11:54 remaining in the half on a layup from Aka Gorski, as it was a part of a 5-0 run for the Pokes making it a 26-16 contest. Sophomore guard Cody Kelley pushed the deficit to nine points after scoring five-straight points for UW making it a 32-23 game with 7:34 remaining in the half.
The Pokes could not put any more of a dent in the early deficit, as UW trailed 43-30 at the half. The Pioneers shot 53 percent from the field in the first frame and held the Pokes to 31 percent. Wyoming struggled from behind the three-point line going 4-of-19 in the opening stanza. The Pioneers dominated the glass 26-14 in the first 20 minutes.
After the Pioneers built the lead back to 14 points at 47-33 to open the second half, the Pokes used back-to-back triples from Kelley and Aka Gorski to make it a 49-41 game with 16:19 left in the contest. The Pokes then used a 10-4 run to make it a 60-54 game with 10:29 remaining, as Herndon led the Pokes with four of those points.
The Pioneers answered with a 5-0 run to push the lead back to double-digits, as a three pointer by the Pioneers would stop the Pokes momentum to make it 67-56 game with under 10 minutes remaining. Denver kept that momentum and pushed the lead to 12 points with four minutes remaining thanks to solid free throw shooting.
Wyoming made it a 79-71 game with 2:33 remaining thanks to a pair of free throws from Adams and a dunk by Herndon on a steal on the inbounds. But that would be as close as the Pokes would get as UW fell 88-78
Denver’s senior guard Jake Pemberton led all scorers with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Pemberton started the game a perfect 4-of-4 from the field. Junior guard Joe Rosga added a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Rosga also led all players with five rebounds. The Pioneer starters outrebounded UW’s starters 36-10.
The Cowboys return home on Saturday hosting Drake in the Mountain West/ Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. The game is set for a 4 p.m. start.