(UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. – Senior guard Louis Adams single handedly pushed the Cowboys lead to nine points scoring eight-straight with under 10 minutes remaining to lift Wyoming (19-11, 10-7 MW) past Air Force (11-18, 5-12 MW) on Senior Night in the Arena-Auditorium on Wednesday evening. For the night, the four Cowboy seniors, who were honored for their contributions to the program before the game combined for 39 points.
The Cowboys remain in the heart of contention for a bye in the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament, as UW is tied with San Diego State for fifth place in the league.
“I thought our zone (defense) did limit their back cuts,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “ When you’re playing against a Princeton set if there is a must it is you have to take away the point-blank layups from their offense. If they can get layups off their back cuts that fuels every other part of their offense, including them kicking the ball out for open three-point shots. I thought we did a good job on limiting the easy baskets and defending the three-point line, and then more so in the second half we did a great job of rebounding the basketball.”
Wyoming was led in scoring on the night by junior guard Justin James with 18 points. He went 7-of-10 from the field in 30 minutes of play. Adams and fellow senior Hayden Dalton added 12 points apiece. Adams also tied a career-high with eight rebounds. Dalton hit two three pointers and also added eight rebounds. Senior Alan Herndon scored nine points to go along with three blocks. Senior Alexander Aka Gorski poured in six points with two three pointers. Sophomore Cody Kelley led the Pokes with a career-tying six assists and also tied a career-best with four steals to go along with his seven points.
“I think what was really special was the distance that the families traveled to be here tonight to support their sons,” Edwards said. “ Alex’s (Aka Gorski) family came all the way from Sweden, and Lou’s (Adams) family coming all the way from Chicago. Then of course H.D.’s (Hayden Dalton) family and Al’s (Herndon) family coming up from Colorado. To see that many family members here on Senior Night — and I know it’s family — but still that is an effort to come support your loved one. I thought that was great. Even our team’s reaction and their excitement as our seniors were getting introduced was huge, as well.”
The Pokes shot 43 percent (23-of-53) from the field and 40 percent (10-of-25) from behind the three point line. Wyoming held Air Force to 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field. The Falcons shot only five free throws, a season-low for a Wyoming opponent. Air Force held the advantage on the glass 39-31.
“When you play Air Force, you have to adjust a lot of your defensive principles that you play throughout the year to defend the Princeton-style offense that they run,” Edwards said. “To have to change your defensive habits this late in the year, since this was the first time we played them this season, can be a little bit difficult. We tried to mix it up a little, playing more zone than man-to-man.”
Air Forced jumped out to a 6-2 lead thanks to six points from Ryan Swan, as he hit his first three shots of the game, three minutes into the contest. The Pokes responded with a 6-0 run with a triple from Dalton and an and-one fast break layup from James to make it 8-6 with 16:26 left in the half.
Swan continued his scoring prowess adding the first 10 points of the game for Air Force, as AFA took a 10-8 lead with 13:55 remaining in the half. The Pokes responded with a 7-0 run to take a 15-10 lead, as four different players tallied points during the surge, which was highlighted with a nifty jumper from redshirt freshman forward Austin Mueller.
The Pokes would follow by going scoreless for nearly three minutes halfway through the frame, as Air Force tied the game at with 15-15. But Dalton added a layup followed by a jumper from James to make it 19-15 at the 8:45 mark of the stanza.
James hit a triple with 3:52 left in the half to put the Pokes’ up by nine points at 28-19. It was the Pokes largest lead of the game that was a part of a 14-4 run for UW. The Falcons hit 4-of-5 field goals to cut the deficit to one point at 29-28 with 1:25 left before the break. James added a dunk before halftime to give UW a 31-28 lead.
Like the first half turnovers haunted the Cowboys, as Air Force opened the second frame on a 9-2 run to take a 37-33 lead about three minutes into the half. Dalton and Adams would hit back-to-back three pointers to give UW a 41-39 lead with 15:11 left in the half, but Lavelle Scottie tied the game with a jumper on the following possession.
The Pokes added a 5-0 surge with a three pointer from James and a hard fought bucket down low from Herndon, to give UW a five point lead at just under 13 minutes left. Air Force went scoreless for over three minutes, but back-to-back buckets made it a one-point contest at 46-45 halfway through the stanza.
Adams would score eight-straight for UW on a three pointer, a fast break slam off a steal and an and-one play to push the UW advantage to 54-45 with 8:50 left in the game. Scottie went on a 4-0 run himself to make it a 54-51 game with just under six minutes left, as UW went scoreless for 3:46 until Dalton hit two free throws to end the skid.
Dalton added two more freebies and another tough layup by Herndon made it a nine point contest at 60-51 with just over four minutes left. Aka Gorski and Kelley added three pointers to shut the door on Air Force to take the game 66-54.
Swan led the Falcons with 14 points on the night with 10 coming in the opening minutes of the game. Guards Caleb Morris and LaVelle Scottie each added 11 points for Air Force.
The Pokes close out the regular season on Saturday at Boise State for a 5 p.m. start on AT&T SportsNet.