Balanced Attack Helps Pokes Roll Past Spartans
Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. notched his second-straight double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds to power the University of Wyoming men's basketball team to a 67-56 Mountain West win over San Jose State on Saturday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes (11-6, 2-2 MW) improved to 9-1 this season when leading at halftime and 6-0 when holding opponents under 60 points.
"Cowboy Tough today," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "We are a tough, physical team that has stayed close with a lot of really good teams this year. We couldn't pull away until the end of this game, but I thought our defense really helped us down the stretch. We gave up a few too many offensive rebounds those last few minutes, but I really feel good about this team."
Wyoming was in front by nine at halftime and kept the advantage the majority of the second half, until the Spartans (6-12, 0-6 MW) pulled within four at 52-48 with 8:31 left in the game. The Cowboys responded with a 12-2 surge over the next six minutes to build a 14-point lead at 64-50 with 2:30 to go. Redshirt junior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. started the run with a three and sophomore guard Josh Adams brought the Cowboy fans to their feet with a fast-break dunk after a Nance block. UW added four-straight free throws and Nance capped the spurt with a three-point play on a dunk that he was fouled on.
"Our guys have been a picture of consistency all year," Shyatt said. "We haven't been able to pull away from some of the weaker teams in the non-conference or teams that are equal to us, but the elite teams have not been able to pull away from us. The grind-out mentality that our team has to bend down and guard as best we can on defense keeps us alive almost every night -- home or away."
Nance's seventh double-double this season came on 6-of-8 from the field and 6-of-6 at the free throw line, as he added five blocks, two steals and two assists in 40 minutes of action. He now has 14 blocks over the last three games and 10 double-doubles in his career. Adams notched 16 points for his sixth double-figure performance in UW's last seven games and added a career-high seven assists. Senior guard Nathan Sobey contributed 10 points for his third-straight contest in double figures.
"It was also good to see different guys at different times come up big for us today," Shyatt said. "Trey Washington IIIand Charles Hankerson Jr. gave us a big lift the first half when [Riley] Grabau was struggling a little bit. Then the second half, [Nathan] Sobey comes to life - [Larry] Nance is blocking everything, so different guys at different times and that is a good thing. I don't think we want to rely on any one player."
The Cowboys shot 51 percent (24-of-47) to top 50 percent from the field for the eighth time this season and added 29 percent (5-of-17) beyond the arc and a season-high 93 percent (14-of-15) at free throw line. SJSU hit 37 percent (20-of-54) from the field, 31 percent (9-of-29) from three and 54 percent (7-of-13) at the line. The Spartans' 29 three-point attempts were the most against UW this season. Wyoming earned a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint, 13-2 in points off turnovers and 14-0 in fast-break points.
The first half was a back-and-forth contest through the first eight minutes, before the Pokes tightened the screws on their defense and held the Spartans without a field goal for seven minutes from 12-minute mark to five-minute mark. Wyoming went inside at the same time to build a double-digit lead at 28-18 with three minutes left in the half. The Pokes crafted a 20-4 advantage in points in the paint in the first half. The Spartans stayed in the game thanks to five first-half threes and got back within six points, but Adams nailed a three at the buzzer to send the Cowboys into halftime up 35-26.
Adams paced the Pokes with nine points in the first half, while Sobey and freshman guard Trey Washington III had eight each. Nance contributed six points and seven rebounds. Wyoming forced eight turnovers that it converted into 13 points and earned a 12-0 advantage in fast-break points. The Cowboys shot 53 percent (14-of-26) from the field and 33 percent (3-of-9) beyond the arc, while the Spartans hit 36 percent (8-of-22) and 29 percent (5-of-17), respectively, in the first half.
Wyoming continues its season at Air Force on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT.