(UW Athletics release)
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – After a cold shooting first half the Cowboys cut a 23-point deficit to single digits in the final five minutes, but the Aztecs withheld Wyoming’s surge to earn the 87-77 win Wednesday evening in Viejas Arena in San Diego, Calif. The Pokes fall to 16-10 on the season and 7-6 in conference play with the Aztecs improving to 14-10 and 6-7 in the league.
“We had opportunities, but gave up some offensive rebounds that hurt us late,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “I appreciate the fight with the bench being a little depleted and guys having to stay out there longer.”
The Pokes were led in scoring by junior guard Justin James, as he scored 26 points. He was 9-of-17 from the field. Senior forward Hayden Dalton added 20 points, as he tied a career-high with five three pointers. Senior forward Alan Herndon recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a team-high five assists. Freshman guard Hunter Maldonado added 13 points for UW. Those four scored all but one points which came from senior Alexander Aka Gorski on the night.
“The game got away in the first half and it was hard to go even deeper into our bench with Louis (Adams) and Andrew (Moemeka) being out,” Edwards said. “I felt we were behind the eight ball all night and we needed to do what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to come back and win the basketball game.”
The Aztecs shot 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the arc. Wyoming shot 41 percent from the field. SDSU held the advantage on the boards 42-28 and scored 44 points in the paint to the Pokes’ 22. The SDSU bench outscored Wyoming’s 40-1 on the night.
“We talked about overcoming a large deficit in the huddles and mostly at halftime and most of the problems came on the defensive end of the floor getting stops in the first half,” Edwards said. “We did a poor job allowing offensive rebounds early and SDSU had some good open looks. We dug ourselves a whole and it starts at the defensive end of the floor trying to get back into the game.”
The Aztecs got out to a 6-0 lead in the first 90 seconds of the ball game. Malik Pope did most of the damage with four points and two offensive rebounds. The Pokes responded back with a triple from Dalton and slam from James moments later to make it a 6-5 contest.
Herndon tied the game at 8-8 on a three pointer from wing with 15:33 left in the half, but the Aztecs went on a quick 4-0 run to build a 12-8 advantage. But the Pokes took their first lead of the game thanks to another Dalton three and a transition slam from Maldonado, his first dunk of his career to make it a 16-15 game with 13:15 left in the opening half.
The Pokes went scoreless for nearly four minutes, as the Aztecs built a 20-16 lead halfway through the frame. Senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski ended the run with a free throw. After a technical foul by redshirt junior guard Nyaires Redding and a pair of made free throws followed by a three pointer extended the San Diego State lead to nine points at 30-21 with less than seven minutes left in the half.
The Aztecs tacked on eight more points and held the Pokes scoreless for three minutes to take a 37-21 lead with just over five minutes left in the half. SDSU continued their run and made their last six field goal attempts to take a 53-31 lead into the half. The Aztecs outscored the Pokes 28-10 to close the first half.
The Pokes opened the first half on a 5-2 run to make it a 55-36 game a minute into the half. The Pokes then went on a 7-0 run to make it a 69-43 game with 16:18 left in the half. Dalton made his fourth three of the night during the surge.
The Cowboys and Aztecs went scoreless for three minutes until Herndon added a pair of free throws to make it a 63-45 game with 13:08 left in the game. But the Aztecs responded back pushing the lead back into the 20’s.
The Pokes made four-straight field goals to make it a 12-point game at 69-57 with under nine minutes to play. Dalton hit his fifth three and a slam by Herndon highlighted the scoring for Wyoming. The Cowboys would get the lead down to nine points on back-to-back layups from Maldonado with just over five minutes left in the contest.
The Aztecs maintained that advantage until three-straight free throws from Dalton made it an 83-75 game with 2:42 left. Two of the freebies came after a technical foul on SDSU’s Jalen McDaniels. The Aztecs got three-straight offensive rebounds to push the lead back to 10 points (85-75) with two minutes left. That was as close as UW could get falling 87-77
San Diego State was led in scoring by Nolan Narain with 18 points going 8-of-10 from the field. McDaniels added 16 points going 6-of-9 from the field. Jordan Schakel added 14 points going 4-of-5 from behind the arc.
The Pokes return to action on Saturday hosting San Jose State in the Arena-Auditorium for a 2 p.m. start.