FRESNO, Calif. – The Cowboys used a 22-7 run to close the first half to propel themselves to a 78-68 win over Fresno State on Saturday evening in the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The Pokes halted the Bulldogs’ five game winning-streak, as Wyoming’s win keeps the Cowboys in the heart of the MW race for a first round bye in the MW Tournament. UW moves to 18-11 overall and 9-7 in the MW. Fresno State falls to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the league.
“Some of the things we addressed coming into the game was coming out and executing,” Uw head coach Allen Edwards said. “We had great shot selection and took care of the basketball and obviously defending was a key. We did a great job with our zone in the first half and what I told our guys it was a good team win and I was proud of them.”
Junior guard Justin James paced the Pokes’ offense with 26 points going 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from behind the arc tying a career high in threes. He has scored 20 or more points 13 times this season. Senior forward Hayden Dalton added 17 points with 15 coming in the first half. He led the Pokes with nine rebounds. Senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski added 11 points going 5-of-8 from the field. Senior forward Alan Herndon added four blocks to go along with nine points and eight rebounds.
“There is a lot of parity in college basketball,” Edwards said. “Our guys were prepared and I always brag about how our players communicate as a group in the huddle. What was great was at halftime we talked to the team about what we needed to do and put ownership on our players. Fresno State made runs, but our guys stayed the course and came up with a really big win on the road.”
Wyoming shot 47 percent from the field going 25-of-53 and 45 percent from behind the arc going 9-of-20. The Pokes held one the nation’s top shooting teams to 45 percent from the field and owned a 32-30 advantage on the glass.
“We wanted them to play from the middle inside,” Edwards said. “I always tell people how effective Alan Herndon is defensively and coming away with our four blocks and rebounding the basketball was huge for us.”
The Bulldogs gained the advantage early with a 5-0 lead, but a triple from James halted the run three minutes into the frame. The Pokes would cut the Fresno State lead to one point at 7-6 at the 14:18 mark on a freebie from Herndon.
Dalton gave the Pokes a 10-9 lead with a flush on a nice dish from senior guard Louis Adams with 12:45 left in the half and would extend the lead to four points at 15-11 thanks to a triple from Aka Gorski and a fast break layup from Adams nearly halfway through the half.
Fresno State went on a 7-0 run to take a 20-17 lead on the Pokes with 8:44 left in the stanza hitting three-straight field goals. Sophomore Andrew Moemeka stopped the run with a rim rattling lob dunk off a pass from James.
Dalton scored five-straight points and James added a layup to give UW a 28-22 advantage. The Pokes went 3-of-3 from the field during the run, as the teams exchanged the lead seven times in the first 13 minutes of the game.
The Pokes went on a 13-2 run to take a 41-27 with a minute remaining hitting five straight field goals. For good measure James added a layup and Dalton hit a bank buzzer beating three pointer to end the half and give UW a 46-29 lead at the break. With the seven-straight field goals made to close the frame, Wyoming finished the first half shooting 50 percent from the field and behind the arc.
The Bulldogs countered the Pokes to open the second half hitting four-straight field goals with a 10-2 surge to make it a nine point game at 48-39 two minutes into the frame. Ray Bowles Jr. cut the lead to seven with 16:09 left in the stanza, as UW went scoreless for over three minutes.
James halted the Pokes’ slide scoring five-straight points to make it a 10-point game at 53-43 with 15:17 remaining. Adams helped maintain the lead with five-straight points to push the lead to 11 points with 13 minutes left in the game.
The Cowboys went without a field goal for over five minutes that allowed the Bulldogs to make it a 61-56 game with just over eight minutes left. Aka Gorski ended the downfall with a layup to get into double figures for a 63-56 game 5:53 left.
Redshirt junior Nyaires Redding hit a pair of freebies to push the lead to double-digits at 68-58 with 2:39 left in the game. The Pokes defense was strong holding the Bulldogs to 1-of-9 from the field for over three minutes to help build the lead back up.
The Pokes got it done from the line late finishing the game going 19-of-25 from the line to earn the 78-68 win.
Fresno State was led by Bryson Williams and Jahmel Taylor with 16 points apiece. Nate Grimes led the Bulldogs with 10 rebounds, while adding eight points.
Wyoming returns to action on Wednesday hosting Air Force on Senior Night for a 7 p.m. start in the Arena-Auditorium.