(UW Athletics release)
LAS VEGAS – The Cowboys went on an 11-0 run to open the second half to propel themselves to a 74-61 win over San Jose State in the first round of the Mountain West Basketball Championship in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. on Wednesday. Junior guard Justin James scored 24 points going a perfect 9-of-9 from the field.
“We went into the game with the mindset of the first four minutes kind of setting ourtone, playing Wyoming brand of basketball,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought we came out with that. So obviously moving into the second half was the same message, playing the first four minutes, and then having to carry over. Thought our guys did a great job of doing that, and because of it we took the lead and gave ourselves an opportunity to rest some guys, obviously getting prepared for tomorrow.”
The Pokes improve to 20-12 on the season and move on to the quarterfinals of the tournament to face off against No. 3 New Mexico at 9:30 p.m. MT on Thursday. Head coach Allen Edwards has now won 20-games in his first two seasons with the program becoming the first Wyoming coach to accomplish the feat.
“The message was our only focus was San Jose State, Edward said. “We didn’t care about after. And we entered the game with the mindset of the first four minutes, putting our stamp on the game in the sense of energy, effort, and playing well in basketball. And then let it carry over. And I thought the same message came out in the second half.”
Wyoming was led in scoring by junior guard Justin James with 24 points. He went a perfect 9-of-9 from the field for the first Poke to accomplish that since Jordan Naughton did so against Western State in the season opener last season. Senior Alan Herndon added 15 points going 6-of-7 from the field. Senior Alexander Aka Gorski added 11 points with senior forward Hayden Dalton adding 10 points.
Wyoming shot 51 percent from the field for their third game shooting over 50 percent in their last five contests. The Pokes added 10 three pointers and have now hit double-digit threes in five of their last six games. Wyoming also doubled up the Spartans in the paint at 36-18.
The Pokes opened the contest hitting their first five shots racing out to a 12-7 lead. James was the spearhead scoring eight of those points including an exciting fast break slam off a steal that got Cowboy Nation inside The Thomas & Mack Center on their feet.
James continued the hot streak scoring 16 of the Pokes’ 22 points to build a 22-16 lead seven minutes into the contest. The Pokes offense slowed down and the Spartans heated up going on a going on a 5-0 run to cut the UW lead to three-points at 22-19 nearly halfway through the opening frame.
Wyoming responded with a 5-0 run of their own to push the lead to 27-19, but San Jose went on a 7-0 run to make it a one-point contest at 27-26 with 6:38 left. Ryan Welage and Jaycee Hillsman combined for all 26 points for SJSU.
James would get to 20 points in the opening half with under two minutes, as Herndon added two buckets including one with two seconds in the half to give Wyoming a 40-30 lead at the half. Wyoming shot 53 percent from the field in the stanza.
The Pokes opened the first half on an 11-0 run to race out to a 51-30 lead nearly three minutes into the second half. Four Cowboys scored to open the second half with triples from sophomore guard Cody Kelley and Herndon highlighting the run.
The threes continued to go down for the Pokes pushing the lead to 24-points with triples from Herndon and three in a row from Aka Gorski with 11:56 left in the game. Wyoming was 5-of-6 to that point in the second half from behind the arc.
The Pokes lead allowed for Wyoming to go to the bench, but the defensive energy was the same, as UW took the contest 74-61. In all, Wyoming played all 12 available players.
The Spartans were paced by Welage with 25 points including five three pointers. Hillsman also went 9-of-16 from the field along with Welage, as he added 24 points.
The Cowboys move on to the quarterfinals to faceoff against New Mexico at 9:30 p.m. MT on CBS Sports Network.