LAS VEGAS – The Cowboys erased a 21-point first half deficit to take a one-point lead in the second frame, but the Rebels scored 44 points in the paint to take the 85-70 win in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. Senior Hayden Dalton recorded a team-high 21 points, as he became the 38th Cowboy to reach 1,000 career points. Wyoming falls to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in the league, as UNLV moves to 18-7 and 7-5 in the league.
“What I told the team after the game is that with every opponent in this league you have to expect their best shot,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought the hole was pretty big early on, but what I told the team at halftime was we cut the deficit down to 10 points and by playing our brand of basketball. In the second half, we came out with great energy and took the lead. But give coach Menzie and his club credit they did not panic and continued to play the game. It was a fight and we started to foul a little early. We need to understand is to seize the moment when it comes.”
Dalton joined junior guard Justin James and senior forward Alan Herndon in the 1,000 Point Club. It is the first time since 1996-97 that three players have reached 1,000 points in the same season, as LaDrell Whitehead, Jeron Roberts and HL Coleman did in that season. Dalton scored 18 points in the second half of the contest going 7-of-14 from the field, while grabbing a team-high nine rebounds.
James added 14 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-23 shooting. Senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski added 11 points off the bench going 5-of-9 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from inside the three point line.
The Pokes shot 36 percent from the field and held UNLV to 46 percent, as the Runnin’ Rebels came in shooting 51 percent on the season for sixth in the nation. The teams combined for 41 points off of turnovers. UNLV held a 49-41 advantage on the boards, but the Pokes finished with 13 offensive rebounds.
“Every night you have to be ready to play in this league,” Edwards said. “I tell our guys we have to control what we can control by playing to the best of our ability and playing together.”
The Pokes struggled offensively to open the contest going scoreless to open the game for over five minutes. Meanwhile, the Runnin’ Rebels jumped out to an 11-0 lead going 4-of-8 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Cody Kelley got the Pokes on the board, but an 8-0 run by UNLV built their lead to 19-2 with 13:05 left in the first half. Dalton gave Wyoming their second basket of the game with a three pointer to go over 1,000 points in his career seconds later.
Wyoming’s offense started to heat up going on an 8-0 run to make it a 24-13 game with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. James added four points on the run that last 52 seconds. After senior guard Louis Adams cut the lead to 10 points at 28-18, a quick 5-0 run by UNLV made it a 33-18 game with 6:31 left in the stanza.
Despite the Runnin’ Rebels shooting well over 50 percent, The Pokes’ cut the lead to 13 points with another 8-0 run with two minutes left in the half to make it a 43-30 game. Wyoming finished the half on a 13-2 run that included a layup to end the half from Herndon to make it a 45-35 contest at the break.
Dalton scored six-straight points in the opening moments of the second half to make it a six point game at 47-41. Dalton continued to feel it with a triple to cut the UNLV advantage to three points at 49-46 with 16:07 left in the half. Wyoming started the second half 4-of-4 from the field after opening the first half 0-of-9.
Dalton gave the Pokes their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 15:18 left in the frame, as UW erased a 21-point first half deficit. But the Rebels answered with a 7-0 run to take a 56-50 lead a minute later hitting three straight field goals.
Kris Clyburn pushed the lead back to double-digits for UNLV at 63-53 with 11:45 left in the second frame. The Pokes would cut the lead to eight points at 65-57 holding UNLV without a field goal for three minutes with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
The Cowboy offense went into a funk for going 1-of-7 from the field until Aka Gorski stopped the slip with a jumper with 5:45 left making it a 68-60 game. The Runnin’ Rebels offense also went cold going 1-of-10 from the field, but UNLV stretched the lead to 11 at 72-61 thanks to solid free throw shooting.
The Pokes went on a 7-0 run to make it a 76-68 game with 2:15 left in the contest. An alley-oop slam from James highlighted the run. But cold shooting from the Cowboys and solid free throw shooting from the Runnin’ Rebels gave UNLV the 85-70 win.
The Runnin’ Rebels were led by their big men in Shakur Juiston and Brandon McCoy. Juiston scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. McCoy added 19 points and 15 rebounds going 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Wyoming heads to San Diego State on Wednesday to take on the Aztecs for a 9 p.m. start on CBS Sports Network.