LARAMIE, Wyo. – Clutch free throw shooting and solid defense in the final moments of Saturday’s game secured the win for the Cowboys (9-3 overall), 72-66, over Texas Southern (0-11 overall) in the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday night. It was the second-consecutive game that the Pokes came back after trailing at halftime to claim victory. It also marked the 20-straight non-conference home win for the Pokes.
“This is a very good basketball team we beat tonight,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “There is a reason that they went into Oregon, Clemson, Toledo, Washington State and all the other teams (on their schedule) that led up to tonight and they played all those games close. I tried to get our guys to understand that coming into this game.”
In the final minute, senior guard Louis Adams gave UW the lead from the free throw line and junior guard Justin James blocked a three point attempt and followed it up with a pair of free throws to give Wyoming the late advantage. Sophomore guard Cody Kelley would take a charge on Texas Southern’s final procession to win the game for UW.
“Before that final possession by them, we were talking in the huddle during the timeout that this was the moment where we needed to get a stop to win a game,” Edwards said. “I thought Cody (Kelley) did a great job, taking that charge square in his chest. The one thing we didn’t want to give them was a three-point shot to put them in a position to win the basketball game. We wanted them to play within the three-point line.”
James led the Pokes with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his fourth double-double in the last five games. James went 7-of-14 from the field and matched his career high in rebounds. Senior forward Alan Herndon also reached double figures with 10 points, his ninth game this season with 10 or more points. Kelley scored nine points and pulled down a career-high six rebounds, and also matched his career best with three made three pointers. Freshman guard Hunter Maldonado scored a career highs in points with eight and rebounds with seven.
Wyoming shot 39 percent from the field, but managed to shoot 50 percent in the second half to earn the win. TSU shot 36 percent from the field, but shot 42 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming dominated the glass out rebounding Texas Southern 47-37, which included a season-high 15 offensive boards the most since grabbing 17 against USC last season.
After Herndon opened the contest with a three pointer, the Tigers went on a 10-3 run to take a 10-6 lead on the Pokes four minutes into the contest. TSU forced three Cowboy turnovers in the opening minutes and also grabbed three offense boards.
The Pokes held the Tigers without a field goal on five trips down the floor and used a 7-0 run to take a 13-10 lead with 12:38 left in the first half. A nice cut for a layup from freshman guard Hunter Maldonado and a put back flush from sophomore forward Andrew Moemeka highlighted the run.
After the teams exchanged leads for several minutes, TSU went on a 6-0 run to build a 22-17 lead. That advantage was short, as Kelley tied the game on three pointer with 6:17 left in the half. The Pokes then added five more points highlighted by a three pointer from James, as the 10-0 run gave UW a 27-22 lead with under four minutes left in the half.
The Tigers closed out the half on a 13-4 run and held the Pokes to only one field goal in the final four minutes of the half to take a 35-30 lead at the break. Wyoming shot 29 percent from the field in the opening frame going 9-of-31.
The Pokes offense battled back to tie the game with an 8-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half. Maldonado hit his first three in five games and Kelley hit his third of the game to make it a 38-38 contest.
The Pokes held the Tigers without a field goal for nearly six minutes to build a three point lead at 45-42. James was brilliant during the run highlighting it with a fast break reverse layup. The Pokes would later push their lead to five points tying their game high at 52-47 with 9:41 remaining.
The Tigers battled back to take a 55-54 lead with a little over seven minutes remaining in the game. The two teams would exchange the lead with the Pokes leading by five points with under four minutes left, but the Tiger roared back with a 7-0 run to take a 62-60 lead with 3:13 left.
The teams would exchange the leads late in the half Adams and James added four free throws to give UW a 68-65 lead with 12 seconds remaining. After a made free throw, UW’s Hayden Dalton grabbed the rebound out of bounds, giving the Tigers one more chance to tie the game. Kelley would take a charge on the Tigers’ possession with four seconds left. After the call with multiple technical fouls on Texas Southern. Dalton knocked down four of his six free throws to seal the game for the Pokes, 72-66.
Sophomore guard Demontrae Jefferson led all scorers with 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting, and also added a game-high three steals. Redshirt junior center Trayvon Reed pulled down 12 boards for the Tigers, while senior forward Lamont Walker recorded 10 rebounds off the bench.
“These guys (Texas Southern) individually have a lot of talent, especially number three, Demontrae Jefferson,” Edwards said. “Some of their other guys are transfers from high major programs. And Coach (Mike) Davis has coached in a Final Four, coached in the national championship game.”
The Cowboys return to the Arena-Auditorium on Tuesday for their last non-conference game of the season against Northern Colorado. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. MT.