(WY Athletics release)
LAS VEGAS – Despite shooting 48 percent from the field on the night, the New Mexico fast paced tempo was too much for the Pokes to overcome in a 85-75 loss in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Championship on Thursday evening in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Pokes finish the season with a 20-13 overall record for back-to-back 20-win campaigns.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game,” UW head coach Allen Edwards. “I thought both teams came out and played with extreme energy. Both teams had some highs and lows throughout the game. At the end of the day one team has to win and one team has to lose. We ended up coming out on the wrong end of it.”
Wyoming was led by in scoring by senior forward Alan Herndon, who added 19 points going 9-of-13 from the field including five dunks. Senior forward Hayden Dalton poured in 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Cody Kelley added 11 points hitting three triples on the night. Junior guard Justin James added nine points and a team-high five assists.
The Pokes’ 48 percent from the field came from 25-of-58 shooting. The Cowboys hit nine three pointers for 304 for the year for three-straight seasons with over 300 triples. The Lobos combined for 25 points off of turnovers and second chances. UNM held a 38-27 advantage on the boards.
We had our chances to put ourselves in position to win the basketball game,” Edwards said. “We just didn’t overcome that hump, so to speak, and put ourselves in position to close out the game. But, yeah, you have to give them credit for staying the course, with their game plan, as well.”
The Lobos got out to a 10-1 lead on Pokes in the opening 3:30 of the contest. New Mexico went 2-of-3 from behind the arc in the surge, as rebounds off the offensive glass sparked opportunities for New Mexico to gain the early advantage.
New Mexico hit four of their next six shots to take an 18-9 lead on Wyoming. Herndon scored six of Wyoming points, which came in the paint. Wyoming went on a 5-0 run to make it an eight point game at 22-14 with 9:21 left in the half.
The Pokes hit three-straight field goals to make it a 28-25 contest with just over six minutes left in the half. Redshirt junior Nyaires Redding and Dalton hit threes with senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski adding an and-one play. Wyoming would cut the deficit to as little as two points on two different three pointers from Kelley, but the Lobos maintain the advantage 39-35 into the half.
The Cowboys struggled to keep the Lobos off the offensive glass in the opening 20 minutes. New Mexico grabbed 10 offensive boards scoring eight points off those opportunities. The Pokes did shoot 57 percent in the half.
The second half got off to a frantic pace with the teams combing for 17 points in the first two minutes with the Lobos maintaining the upper hand. New Mexico pushed the lead to nine points on a Chris McNeal three pointer with 15 minutes left in the game for a 55-46 contest.
Over a three minute stretch of holding the Lobos without a field goal, the Pokes cut the UNM lead to 58-54 with 11:48 left in the half. Herndon added five-straight points for Wyoming during the surge. But shortly after Wyoming battled back, the Lobos connected on three-straight trips down the floor to build the lead to seven at 66-59 almost halfway through the half.
Senior guard Louis Adams’ and-one play cut the Lobo lead to four points at 73-69 with 5:14 left in the game. The lead was cut to three-points on a Herndon dunk with just under three minutes left for a 76-73 contest in favor of New Mexico.
UNM’s Joe Furstinger followed the Herndon slam with an and-one play to push the lead back to six points and the Lobos hit free throws from there on their way to a 85-75 win and a spot in the semifinals on Friday.
New Mexico was led by Furstinger with 23 points, as he also added eight rebounds. Troy Simons added 15 points for the Lobos going 6-of-7 from the field.
Seniors Alan Herndon, Louis Adams, Hayden Dalton and Alexander Aka Gorski played their final games in the Brown and Gold. Aka Gorski and Herndon were part of the MW Championship team and teamed up with Dalton and Adams for the College Basketball Invitational Title last season.
“I told the underclassmen in there, they should go around and thank those four guys for what they’ve done for this program,” Edwards said. “H, Al, Lou, and Alex has done a lot in the sense of helping this program and helping the last two years with me as a head coach and our culture and what we’re trying to do going forward. Those guys have made a big impression on it.”
The Pokes finish the season with a 20-13 overall record, as Wyoming Cowboys earned its 23rd 20-win season in school history.