Justin James scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but the Wyoming Cowboys struggled down the stretch in a 76-66 loss to UC Santa Barbara Tuesday night in Laramie.

In the season opener for both teams, the Gauchos outscored the Pokes 14-6 over the last 4:33 of the game. Wyoming made only one of its last 14 shots from the field.

JaQuori McLaughlin scored 17 points, while Devearl Ramsey added 14 for UCSB. The Gauchos shot 51 percent from the field and went 7-19, 37 percent, from deep. They also had a 40-29 edge in rebounding.

Wyoming (0-1) shot only 36 percent from the floor. They were just 5-29, 17 percent, beyond the arc. Hunter Maldonado scored 12 points, while Hunter Thompson finished with 10 in his UW debut. Thompson left the game with 10:05 remaining due to an injury and didn’t return.

The first half went back-and-forth. It featured 12 lead changes and four ties. UC Santa Barbara took the lead for good on a pair of McLaughlin free throws with 39 seconds left. He added a three-point play with three seconds left that gave the Gauchos a 39-35 advantage at the half.

UC Santa Barbara pushed their lead to nine, at 45-36, just over two minutes into the second half. It reached 11 with 12:51 left. Two baskets by Thompson, a Maldonado three, and a James bucket helped the Cowboys cut it to 57-55 with nine minutes remaining. A James put-back with five minutes helped Wyoming pull within 62-60. That was the Cowboys’ last field goal. They made six free throws the rest of the game.

UW heads on the road for the first time Saturday. It’s their second straight trip to Corvallis, OR to take on the Oregon State Beavers. The game starts at 1 p.m., Mountain Time.

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