(UW Athletics release)
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Senior guard Justin James scored the final five points of the game in the last 66 seconds to give the Cowboys a 68-66 comeback Victory over Richmond on Wednesday in the third-place game of the Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off in the Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Fla.
“One of the things we have been stressing with the injuries to our bigs and Hunter Maldonado not being 100 percent is our team playing hard and we have done that,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “In the second half, we played with more sense of urgency. Our guys really fought hard tonight and played very well on both ends of the floor.”
The Pokes trailed by 11 points in the second half and used seven-straight field goals to tie the contest and take a lead. After Richmond took the lead back, Wyoming would then erase a five-point deficit in the final 90 seconds to earn the win.
“One of the things I said to the team after the game was I thought we fought our tails off,” Edwards said. “We have been banged up, but the morale has been great.”
Junior Hunter Maldonado got the late comeback started followed by a triple and a smooth jumper by James for the win with 31 seconds left. Wyoming held Richmond scoreless for the final 2:41 of the ball game to move to 2-4 overall on the season.
James scored a season-high 29 points, as the Mountain West’s leading scorer went 11-of-22 from the field. He also added four assists and five rebounds. Maldonado added 15 points and a team-high eight rebound giving the Pokes’ 35 minutes of gritty basketball. Junior guard Jake Hendricks added 10 points hitting three triples. He also added a career-high six rebounds.
“I think Justin (James) is a terrific basketball player,” Edwards said. “He has really grown from his junior year to senior season. He is really studying the game. He is as much of a coach as he is a player on the court. It is great that he sets an example like that.”
The Spider’s Grant Golden poured in 33 points on the night going 16-of-24 from the field. He also added a game-high nine rebounds.
The Pokes shot 45 percent from the field going 25-of-55 and went 7-of-18 from behind the arc for 39 percent. The Spiders shot 47 percent from the field, but were 41 percent in the second half, which allowed the Pokes to make the comeback.
“Early on we were sticking on to the ball, but once we moved and cut we could get to the rim,” Edwards said. “We kept stressing playing defense and that really helped feed the offense. We challenged the guys in the second half and played man defense and our guys did a great job doing so.”
Both teams started the contest 2-of-6 from the field four minutes into the game. The Pokes held a 6-4 advantage using the dribble drive to get the early lead. Richmond would hold the Pokes scoreless for over four minutes and used a 6-0 run to take a 10-7 lead with 13:46 left in the half.
Richmond’s Golden single handily built the lead to six points at 15-9 with 12:11 left in the first frame. He scored 13 of Richmond’s 15 points, as the 6-10, 265-pound Preseason All- Atlantic 10 selection opened 6-of-7 from the field.
Hendricks cut the deficit to three points with his first three pointer attempted and made of the contest making it a 20-17 game with 6:29 left in the first half. Hendricks would cut it to two points later in the half, but a timely three by Richmond made it a 30-25 contest with 3:39 left in the half.
Richmond closed the half on an 8-2 run to take a 35-27 lead into the break, as Wyoming had one field goal in the final four minutes of the half. Richmond shot 52 percent from the field including hitting four timely three pointers, as all four were timed when the Pokes trailed by three or less points.
After a slow start to the second period, James and Hendricks got the Pokes going cutting a double-digit deficit to six at 41-35 in the first four minutes of the stanza. But Richmond hit three-straight field goals to build the lead back to 11 points with 13:56 left.
Wyoming made five-straight field goals from five different players to make it a 50-50 game. Senior Nyaires Redding tied the contest with his first three pointer of the season. James seconds later gave Wyoming a 52-50 lead, as it was part of an 11-0 run for the Pokes.
After Richmond tied the contest at 52-52, Maldonado added five-straight points to give Wyoming 57-52 advantage. But the Spiders tied the contest at 57-57 on a deep three from Gilyard with just under seven minutes left.
Both teams would battle until five-straight points including a three pointer, the fifth of the game from Jake Wojcik made it a 66-61 contest for Richmond with 2:41 left in the ball game.
But the Pokes would not go away, as Maldonado and James scored seven straight points to give the Pokes the 68-66 win.
The Cowboys will take a break from action until heading to Evansville on Wednesday, Nov. 28 for a 5 p.m. MT start on ESPN+.