LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Cowboy offense struggled in a 78-73 loss to Colorado State on Saturday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. The Pokes shot 36 percent from the field for their lowest percentage since shooting 34 percent at South Carolina on Dec. 6.
“I thought we came out with great energy to start the game, but CSU answered that initial punch and the run that they made after that hurt us,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “We did put ourselves back in a good position at halftime, down only one point. The second half of basketball was a better brand of basketball for us, but they (Colorado State) made more plays than we did.”
The Pokes have now lost back-to-back contests for the first time this season, as UW moves to 11-7 overall and 2-3 in Mountain West Play. The Rams move to 10-9 overall and 3-3 in the conference. The Pokes shot 31-of-42 at the free throw line, season-high marks in both makes and attempts, but it would not be enough.
“One thing we try to pride ourselves on is getting three stops in a row,” Edwards said. “We were able to do some of that in the first half to dig ourselves out of a hole and get back in the game, but in the second half when we needed some key stops we couldn’t come through, whether it was a nice offensive play by them or them getting an offensive rebound.”
Senior forwards Hayden Dalton and Alan Herndon led all scorers with 18 points, each. Herndon entered the game with 964 points, and is now just 18 points shy of reaching the career 1,000-point mark. Dalton knocked down three triples to move his career total to 101 three-point field goals, only the third current Cowboy to do so. Herndon and senior guard Alex Aka Gorski are the other two. Dalton also led all players with four assists and secured 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Junior guard Justin James added 16 points for UW. Freshman guard Hunter Maldonado grabbed a career-high three steals.
The Rams finished the game with 43 rebounds to the Pokes’ 33. The Pokes recorded 16 of their points off of turnovers, but were outscored in the paint 26-24.
“As a veteran group, I thought we got away from some of our defensive responsibilities that we went over in our scouting report in terms of how we wanted to defend certain players,” Edwards said. “Some of that might be due to fatigue, but I felt some of our veterans did get away from things we had talked about in preparing for CSU.”
The Pokes raced out to a 6-0 lead in the opening two minutes going a perfect 3-of-3 from the field. Maldonado, Herndon and James all drove to the lane to earn the buckets for UW. The Rams responded with a 6-0 run lead by Che Bob to tie the contest at 8-8 with 16:11 left in the frame.
The Rams went on a 14-0 run to build a 22-9 lead on the Cowboys with eight minutes remaining. The Pokes went 0-of-9 from the field during the surge from the Rams. The Pokes went 13 minutes without a basket until Herndon cut the lead to 10 points at 28-18 with just over four minutes left in the half. UW was 0-of-14 from the field during the slide.
The Herndon three fueled a 14-0 run that made it a 28-27 game with 1:20 left in the first half. The Pokes made four-straight field goals and held the Rams scoreless for over five minutes. J.D. Paige added a pair of freebies that was followed by James with two at the line making it a 30-29 game in favor of CSU at the break.
Herndon scored 11 points at the break to lead the Pokes, as UW shot 35 percent from the field in the opening stanza. The Rams were physical in the paint with 24 first half rebound to the Pokes 16.
The Rams opened the half with a quick 5-0 run in the first 45 seconds of the frame to build a 35-29 lead. Dalton scored five-straight points for UW making it a 37-34 ball game, as he went over 100 career threes to open his scoring spree.
Dalton tied the contest with 15:53 remaining on a deep three pointer after he grabbed a rebound on a missed Louis Adams free throw. A scoreless run of over two minutes by the Pokes allowed CSU to build a 48-42 lead with 11:42 remaining.
The Pokes went without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes, as CSU built an 11-point lead at 61-50 with 6:36 remaining. The Cowboys cut it to five points after back-to-back threes from Herndon and sophomore guard Cody Kelley with 5:33 left.
The Rams would build the lead back to eight points at 68-60 with 3:22 left on a Prentiss Nixon jumper. Dalton brought the Pokes to within two points at 68-66 with 2:23 left on a three point play that brought energy to the Cowboy crowd. But J.D. Paige pushed the lead to six on a three pointer with 1:31 remaining.
The Pokes wouldn’t go away with a 4-0 run to make it a 73-71 game with 47 seconds left, But the Rams connected on late free throws to earn the 78-73 victory.
Bob and Nixon led the Rams with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Nico Carvacho pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, as CSU outrebounded the Pokes 43-33.
The Cowboys return to action next Saturday heading to Logan, Utah to take on Utah State for a 7 p.m. start.